Harvard President Claudine Gay resigns over plagiarism claims and disastrous antisemitism testimony in bitter letter where she says she’s been victim of racism – but fails to apologize

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Written By Maya Cantina

Harvard President Claudine Gay today resigned in a bitter letter to colleagues and students where she failed to apologize for or acknowledge the disasters that led to her departure.  

Gay, 53, lasted just six months in the role – the shortest tenure of any president in the school’s history.  Her resignation comes 28 days after her shocking congressional testimony about campus antisemitism, where she refused to categorize calls for Jew genocide as harassment or concede that Jewish students had a right not to feel safe at Ivy League schools. 

In her resignation, Gay wrote that she was standing down after ‘consultation’ with the school’s board, which has been under pressure to replace her after defending her remarks. 

She failed to acknowledge where she went wrong – making no mention of  December 5 testimony or the mounting claims of plagiarism against her – but said she had been the victim of racist threats.  

‘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. 

The Harvard Corporation, which serves as the school board, heaped praise on her ‘devoted’ service and said it had accepted her resignation ‘with sorrow’, while Jewish groups and alumni like billionaire Bill Ackman embraced the announcement.

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Harvard President Claudine Gay has resigned today, a month after her disastrous congressional testimony 

She said it had been ‘frightening’ to find herself the target of threats, and ‘distressing’ to have her character questioned. 

Gay will be replaced by Alan M. Garber, Provost and Chief Academic Officer, who sat behind her at the infamous December 5 hearing, nodding as she made her remarks. 

Her six month tenure as president is the shortest in the school’s history.  

Gay was publicly scorned for her December 5 congressional testimony, where she repeatedly refused to condemn calls for Jew genocide, saying such threats did not count as harassment. 

In her email today, Gay complained: ‘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.’ 

She said it was with a ‘heavy heart’ that she was standing down, but confirmed she would retain some kind of role at the school. 

‘I believe we have within us all that we need to heal from this period of tension and division and to emerge stronger. 

‘I had hoped with all my heart to lead us on that journey, in partnership with all of you.

‘As I now return to the faculty, and to the scholarship and teaching that are the lifeblood of what we do, I pledge to continue working alongside you to build the community we all deserve,’ she said. 

The Harvard Corporation said it had accepted her resignation ‘with sorrow’. 

‘It is with that overarching consideration in mind that we have accepted her resignation. We do so with sorrow. 

‘While President Gay has acknowledged missteps and has taken responsibility for them, it is also true that she has shown remarkable resilience in the face of deeply personal and sustained attacks. 

Alan Garber (shown, right, in 2018 with Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman Al Saudf) will serve as interim president in Gay's absence

Alan Garber (shown, right, in 2018 with Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman Al Saudf) will serve as interim president in Gay’s absence 

Garber supported Gay at the disastrous hearing, nodding as she gave her remarks 

Students protest against Israel at Harvard University on October 14. Many Jewish students said the extended protests and university response to them left them feeling unsafe

Students protest against Israel at Harvard University on October 14. Many Jewish students said the extended protests and university response to them left them feeling unsafe

Students flew a 'Harvard Hates Jews' sign over campus on December 7 - two days after Gay's testimony

Students flew a ‘Harvard Hates Jews’ sign over campus on December 7 – two days after Gay’s testimony 

‘While some of this has played out in the public domain, much of it has taken the form of repugnant and in some cases racist vitriol directed at her through disgraceful emails and phone calls. 

‘We condemn such attacks in the strongest possible terms.’ 

Gay’s resignation was welcomed by some Jewish groups on Tuesday. 

‘Harvard University has a long way to go to make Jewish students feel safe. 

‘President Gay’s failures are symptomatic of deeper problems including anti-Semitism in many of America’s elite universities. 

‘Let’s hope they all open a new chapter based on justice and equality for all,’ Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean and Global Social Action Director, said. 

Met with a wave of public backlash, Gay initially said her antisemitism comments had been misunderstood. 

The Harvard Corporation stood by her, resisting growing calls to urge her resignation.  

Since the hearing on December 5, she has been accused of plagiarizing throughout her academic career. 

On December 12, after the first claims emerged, Harvard stood by her, insisting she’d been investigated and cleared. 

Critics said it was a ‘sham’ investigation that was open and closed too quickly. 

Since the antisemitism testimony, Gay has also been accused of plagiarizing large chunks of her academic works

Since the antisemitism testimony, Gay has also been accused of plagiarizing large chunks of her academic works 

Privately, the Harvard Corporation – the university board which Gay sat at the top of – was under pressure to make a change. 

UPenn President Liz Magill resigned shortly after the hearing on December 5, but Gay held firm. 

In a statement, she said her comments had been taken out of context. 

‘There are some who have confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone calls for violence against Jewish students.

‘Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account,’ she said at the time. 

Harvard did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. 

Of Gay’s 17 published academic works, seven had been found to contain alleged examples of plagiarism.

On Monday, that total rose to eight – with another piece of her writing allegedly found to have duplications.

US Congress

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