Claudine Gay Officially Resigns

( – Sally Kornbluth of MIT, Elizabeth Magill of the University of Pennsylvania, and Claudine Gay of Harvard, all presidents of their respective educational institutions, testified before the Republican-led House Committee on Education and the Work Force on December 5. They answered questions about their administrations’ tolerant attitudes toward the rise in antisemitic attitudes and demonstrations on their campuses following Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack on Israel and the Israeli counter-offensive on the Gaza Strip.

Less than a week later, UPenn President Magill and Board of Trustees Chair Scott Bok resigned from the Ivy League School after facing a torrent of criticism over Magill’s answers of seeming lack thereof to the House committee. On January 2, slightly less than one month after the five-hour testimony, which some have characterized as “aggressive,” Harvard’s President Gay also tendered her resignation, citing “the best interests of Harvard” as her reason for stepping back.

Legal Answers to Moral Questions

All three university presidents have faced increasing pressure since the Hamas attack. Each needed to balance student safety for diverse groups on campus with free speech, all while battling any forms of hate, including antisemitism and islamophobia.

Yet, where the administrators seemed to find the greatest pitfall during the hearing was when they spoke about trying to differentiate between hate speech and incitement to violence. Under their university bylaws, freedom of speech, even hate speech, enjoys protection until it incites violence.

Calls on campuses for “intifada,” or shaking off Israeli occupation and rule in the Palestinian areas of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, sound like incitement to many. Another infamous protest cry of “from the river to the sea” sounds suspiciously like a call to genocide to many Jews and allies.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle took issue with what some deemed a “legalistic” answer to a moral question. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called for all three administrators to resign their positions, saying it was beyond the pale that they didn’t label protests calling for “the genocide of any group of people” as harassment.

Likewise, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Vice President Kamala Harris’s husband, commented on the university leaders during the National Menorah Lighting in Washington. He said their inability to call out antisemitism showed a “lack of moral clarity” that he called “simply unacceptable.”

Plagiarism Charges

Initially, Gay weathered calls for her resignation by lawmakers, alumni, and donors with the support of the Harvard Corporation, the guiding body over the university, and with popular support from more than 700 faculty members who signed a letter to the corporation supporting Gay.

The administrator later apologized for her comments in front of the Congressional committee and admitted that she hadn’t condemned violent threats toward Jewish students. But she lost critical support from the Jewish community, including from Rabbi David Wolpe, who felt compelled to resign from an antisemitism committee she created because he didn’t believe he could “make the sort of difference [he] had hoped.”

More importantly, Gay gained enemies. Conservative activists combed through her dissertations and found what they characterized as instances of plagiarism in her doctoral thesis, which they presented to The Harvard Corporation on December 12. The governing body performed its own investigation and found examples of inadequate citations, which Gay began working to correct. However, the corporation didn’t find evidence of misconduct.

On January 1, conservative activists highlighted more examples of alleged plagiarism — a move that appeared to finally have the proper impact on Gay. She resigned the following day.

In her resignation statement, Gay said she had felt frightened and distressed by “personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus” and because some in the Harvard community had questioned her commitments to scholarly rigor and confronting hate.

~Here’s to Our Liberty!

Copyright 2024,