The price of failure: Outgoing Harvard President Claudine Gay is still set to earn $900,000-a-year by returning to professor’s job at embattled college’s political sciences department

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • Claudine Gay on Tuesday resigned as president of Harvard after only six months in the job
  • Gay was forced out after her slow response to student justification of the Hamas terror attacks put a spotlight on her academic record, and plagiarism was found
  • Gay’s salary as president of Harvard is unspecified: she earned $879,079 in 2021, when she was president-elect, and will resume teaching on a similar wage

Outgoing Harvard president Claudine Gay will retain a salary of around $900,000-a-year from the university, despite being forced to resign amid a plagiarism scandal.

Gay, 53, resigned on Tuesday after months of questions about her leadership. 

She will remain a member of the university staff and return to a teaching role at the department of political science, and keep a similar salary.

Gay had only taken up the role on July 1, and her exact salary is yet to be disclosed on tax forms. Her predecessor, Lawrence S. Bacow, earned more than $1.3 million in calendar year 2021, The Crimson reported in May.

Over the same time frame, Gay – then the dean of the faculty of art and sciences – earned $879,079, up from the $824,068 reported in 2020. 

Gay will now return to a role within the political science department, and will retain a salary on the same level as while she was president, The New York Post reported. 

Claudine Gay took over as president of Harvard on July 1. Six months later, on January 2, she announced her resignation

Gay is stepping down as president but remaining a member of staff, and will teach at the department of political studies (pictured)

Gay is stepping down as president but remaining a member of staff, and will teach at the department of political studies (pictured)

While president, she enjoyed free housing at at Elmwood, the Harvard president’s residence. Her successor will take over the house.

Harvard has named its provost, Alan Garber, as the interim president.

The process to find a new president is usually lengthy, and involves both the Harvard Corporation – the 12-member group which oversees the running of the university – and the Board of Overseers, a 32-member panel of alumni.

A 15-member search committee – 12 members of the Harvard Corporation and three from the Board of Overseers – will draw up a shortlist of around 600 candidates, with the senior fellow on the Corporation, Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker, spearheading the search.

The list will be narrowed down to around 20, who will then undergo interviews with the Corporation.

Once the Corporation has made their choice, the Board of Overseers must approve it.

The searches typically last six months or longer, The Crimson reported, although the five-month search process that selected Gay was the shortest process in more than 70 years.

While past searches have included candidates who are not Harvard affiliates, every president in the last 30 years has held a Harvard degree.

Gay, seen in May 2023, shortly before taking up the role as the first black president of Harvard

Gay, seen in May 2023, shortly before taking up the role as the first black president of Harvard

Gay was accused of copying two paragraphs from work by then-Harvard scholars D. Stephen Voss and Bradley Palmquist. One paragraph is nearly identical except for a few words

Gay was accused of copying two paragraphs from work by then-Harvard scholars D. Stephen Voss and Bradley Palmquist. One paragraph is nearly identical except for a few words

Gay's alleged plagiarism of Gary King's work seen here in bold font

Gay’s alleged plagiarism of Gary King’s work seen here in bold font

Gay's alleged plagiarism of David Canon's work seen here in bold font

Gay’s alleged plagiarism of David Canon’s work seen here in bold font

Gay studied for her Ph.D. at Harvard before taking up a tenured position teaching at Stanford, where she studied for her undergraduate degree in economics.

In 2016 she returned to Harvard, to teach, and rose to become the dean of the faculty of arts and sciences before being elected president.

Gay, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, became the first black person to lead Harvard when she took over as president on July 1.

On December 10, as she was dealing with criticism of her Congressional testimony, conservative activist Christopher Rufo published on his newsletter accusations that she had plagiarized portions of her 1997 doctoral thesis.

The Washington Free Beacon then published their own investigation into Gay’s work, but on December 12 Harvard Corporation – which runs the university – announced she had been investigated and cleared.

Some noted the speed of the investigation: most take six to 12 months, but Gay was cleared in a matter of weeks.

The Corporation said some of her academic work would be ‘corrected’, but her job was secure.

Yet the accusations of plagiarism kept coming, and students began to complain that they would be punished for similar violations.

Most of the people she plagiarized said they were unconcerned, saying that there was a limit to how many ways you could phrase certain political science terminology. But others she copied, and some within the university, said they were concerned.

On Tuesday, she said she was resigning to put the university’s best interests first.

‘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 in an email to the Corporation.

ᴀʀᴛɪᴄʟᴇ ꜱᴏᴜʀᴄᴇ

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