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Harvard retains President Claudine Gay despite her controversial answers about antisemitism before Congress

Gay was also facing criticism for accusations that she previously plagiarized parts of her Ph.D. thesis

Billboard for Harvard University
Billboard for Harvard University | Shutterstock

December 12, 2023 12:28pm

Updated: December 12, 2023 12:28pm

Harvard President Claudine Gay will retain her position as university president despite calls for her removal after her answers about antisemitism before Congress last week, according to a board decision made Tuesday.

Gay was also facing criticism for accusations that she previously plagiarized parts of her Ph.D. thesis.

“As members of the Harvard Corporation, we today reaffirm our support for President Gay’s continued leadership of Harvard University,” the board, known as the Harvard Corporation, said in a statement signed by all members except for Gay. “Our extensive deliberations affirm our confidence that President Gay is the right leader to help our community heal and to address the very serious societal issues we are facing.”

The board also said that while there were allegations of plagiarism against Gay in October, an independent review “revealed a few instances of inadequate citation.”

According to the board, Gay did not violate the university’s misconduct standards, but she is still requesting corrections to add citations and quotation marks to two articles, the group said.

The allegations made national news on Sunday after reporters Chris Brunet and Christopher Rufo posted, parts of Gay's thesis side by side earlier academic articles.

The board also acknowledged that Gay used bad judgment when answering questions before congress about the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, when about 1,400 people were killed and 240 others were kidnapped.

“So many people have suffered tremendous damage and pain because of Hamas’s brutal terrorist attack, and the University’s initial statement should have been an immediate, direct, and unequivocal condemnation. Calls for genocide are despicable and contrary to fundamental human values,” the board wrote. “President Gay has apologized for how she handled her congressional testimony and has committed to redoubling the University’s fight against antisemitism.”

The embattled Harvard president did a mea culpa last week, apologizing for her statements during a subsequent House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing.

During the original hearing, Rep. Elise Stefanik asked Gay, “At Harvard, does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment?”

Gay said that “depending on the context,” such statements might violate Harvard’s policies and that “antisemitic speech, when it crosses into conduct that amounts to bullying, harassment, intimidation, that is actionable conduct, and we do take action.”

Gay appeared before Congress with former University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill, who  resigned on Saturday, and also M.I.T President Sally Kornbluth.

In addition serving as president of the university, Gay is also a Wilbur A. Cowett Professor of Government and of African American Studies. Before joining the Department of Government at Harvard she was an assistant professor of political science at Stanford University from 2000-2005.

Gay’s professional background has been posted as part of her CV online at Harvard, which can be viewed here.