Harvard governing board says president will keep her job amid backlash

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Amid backlash over Harvard President Claudine Gay’s responses at a congressional hearing questioning antisemitism on U.S. college campuses, the main governing board of the university unanimously said that she will be allowed to keep her job. Gay’s fate as university president at Harvard had been up in the air ever since her controversial remarks at the congressional hearing earlier this month.

The Harvard Corporation said in a statement to the university community on Tuesday: “As members of the Harvard Corporation, we today reaffirm our support for President Gay’s continued leadership of Harvard University. 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 … In this tumultuous and difficult time, we unanimously stand in support of President Gay.”

Gay, the first person of color and the second woman hired as Harvard’s president in December 2022, had faced calls to resign after she and the leaders of University of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts Institute of Technology engaged in four hours of tense testimony in front of the House Education Committee on Dec. 5.  Ms. Gay testified alongside MIT’s Sally Kornbluth and Liz Magill (who resigned from her role at the University of Pennsylvania over the weekend.). Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania are among schools being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education for complaints of antisemitism and Islamophobic discrimination on campus.

The three university presidents explained that there are processes in place to determine whether students have violated school policies and must respect students’ different viewpoints on antisemitism, with Gay adding: “we do not sanction individuals for their political views or their speech. When that speech crosses into conduct that violates our behavior-based policies, bullying, harassment and intimidation, we take action.”  Gay also said that Harvard was working to fight antisemitism while allowing for free speech: “During these difficult days, I have felt the bonds of our community strain. In response, I’ve sought to confront hate while preserving free expression. This is difficult work. And I know that I have not always gotten it right.”  

Gay later apologized for her remarks at the congressional hearing during an interview on Thursday with The Crimson,  Harvard University’s student newspaper:  “I am sorry. Words matter. When words amplify distress and pain, I don’t know how you could feel anything but regret.”

Editorial credit: monticello / Shutterstock.com

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