By SARAH RODERICK-FITCH | THE CENTER SQUARE
Harvard President Claudine Gay announced her resignation Tuesday following new allegations of plagiarism and scrutiny of her congressional testimony on antisemitism.
In recent weeks, Gay’s presidency has divided the Ivy League university, with faculty, administrators and the governing Harvard Corporation supporting the embattled president. At the same time, a group of students called for her to step down.
In Gay’s resignation letter, she expressed the difficult decision to step down from the university while saying personal attacks were “fueled” by racism. The letter was void of responsibility for minimizing antisemitism, serial plagiarism, intimidating the press, or damage to the institution.
Her term is the shortest of presidents for Harvard, which traces its founding to 1636.
“It is with a heavy heart but a deep love for Harvard that I write to share that I will be stepping down as president. This is not a decision I came to easily,” Gay wrote.
“Amidst all of this, it has been distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigor – two bedrock values that are fundamental to who I am – and frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus,” Gay added.
Gay noted she consulted with the Harvard Corporation in her decision. Last month, the 13-member governing board unanimously stood by the university president, reaffirming confidence.
“After consultation with members of the Corporation, it has become clear that it is in the best interests of Harvard for me to resign so that our community can navigate this moment of extraordinary challenge with a focus on the institution rather than any individual,” Gay wrote.
Over the weekend, students called for Gay’s resignation in an editorial in The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, citing “scandal after scandal.”
“University President Claudine Gay should resign,” the editorial demanded. “It has been less than half a year since Gay assumed one of the most prestigious posts in all of academia. Since then, scandal after scandal has plagued our beloved university.”
The editorial slammed those at the university for standing by Gay after her controversial congressional testimony and allegations of plagiarism, saying the scandal surrounding Gay was ultimately hurting the university.
“Because our peers avoid reckoning with the severity of Gay’s failures, dismissing instances of explicit plagiarism as insufficient to warrant her resignation, we respectfully dissent,” the editorial wrote. “One doesn’t need to look far to see that Harvard isn’t running smoothly – these scandals disrupt teaching and research, Harvard’s core missions. As students, we are exhausted.”
The opinion piece said Gay’s good character and scholarly abilities weren’t enough to save her tenure as president.
“President Gay may be a good person. She may even be a praiseworthy scholar, despite the allegations. But that isn’t enough to remain president. The leader of the world’s foremost university must be held to a higher standard, one that Gay has unfortunately failed to meet,” the editorial concluded. “It is clear to us that the continuation of Gay’s tenure as president only hurts the University. For Harvard’s sake, Gay must go.”
Despite the students’ call for Gay’s resignation, last month, Gay received a boost of support from nearly 700 faculty members who urged the president not to bow to pressure to resign, citing “political pressures.”