Gay, Critics Concur: Harvard Hubbub Isn't Just About Her

In 'NYT' op-ed, Gay notes there's a 'broader war to unravel public faith in pillars of American society'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2024 6:25 AM CST
Claudine Gay: I'll Move Forward With 'Courage'
Claudine Gay speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill on Dec. 5 in Washington.   (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

This week, Claudine Gay made the "wrenching but necessary decision" to step down as president of Harvard University, amid backlash on her testimony about antisemitism on campus, as well as accusations of plagiarism. But while she's lost her plum position as the head of an elite Ivy League institution, Gay writes for the New York Times that "what just happened at Harvard is bigger than me." After noting the (often racist) vitriol that's been flooding her inbox over the past several weeks, Gay adds that she resigned to "deny demagogues the opportunity to further weaponize my presidency in their campaign to undermine the ideals animating Harvard since its founding: excellence, openness, independence, truth."

Gay concedes that "yes, I made mistakes," on both the antisemitism and plagiarism fronts, but she slams the "obsessive scrutiny" of her and her work, and says that she'll carry on her teaching career with "courage." She also offers a warning, noting that "the campaign against me was about more than one university and one leader. This was merely a single skirmish in a broader war to unravel public faith in pillars of American society." More from Gay here, as well as other perspectives on her resignation:

  • 'At what cost'? That's the question Robert Reich asks of her stepping down in his piece for the Guardian, where he goes after the deep-pocketed Harvard donors that he says helped drive Gay out. "I can understand the frustrations of these donors," Reich writes. "But to use their influence to force the ouster of these university presidents is an abuse of power."
  • What of Harvard? In a scathing takedown of Gay for the Spectator, Peter Wood believes that Gay "will land on her feet," but the university she used to head "may have to wait longer" to recoup its own reputation.
  • Conservative strategy: Christopher Rufo, the right-wing activist credited by some as the "mastermind" behind Gay's ouster, describes in the Wall Street Journal the "method to my madness" on yanking power back for conservatives "across the institutions of American academic life." He does concur with Gay on one point: This isn't just about her. "While her resignation is a victory, it is only the beginning," he writes. "If America is to reform its academic institutions, the symbolic fight over Harvard's presidency must evolve into a deeper institutional fight."
  • A probe into plagiarism: The AP dives deeper into how the plagiarism allegations against Gay have been wielded like a cudgel by conservative activists to help "fan the outrage."
  • Pushback against the AP: That story, in turn, drew its own backlash, specifically over its original headline (since changed): "Harvard president's resignation highlights new conservative weapon against colleges: plagiarism." Fox News notes that the article was "mocked" on social media, while NewsBusters calls it a "hysterical take."
(More Claudine Gay stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.