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Harvard president remains leader of Ivy League school following backlash on antisemitism testimony

A petition signed by more than 600 faculty members asked the school’s governing body to keep President Claudine Gay in charge

Claudine Gay
Harvard University President Claudine Gay watches a video being played during a House Education and The Workforce Committee hearing titled 'Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism' on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 5, 2023.KEN CEDENO (REUTERS)

Harvard President Claudine Gay will remain leader of the prestigious Ivy League school following her comments last week at a congressional hearing on antisemitism, the university’s highest governing body announced Tuesday.

“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 Harvard Corporation said in a statement following its meeting Monday night.

Only months into her leadership, Gay came under intense scrutiny following the hearing in which she and two of her peers struggled to answer questions about campus antisemitism. Their academic responses provoked backlash from Republican opponents, along with alumni and donors who say the university leaders are failing to stand up for Jewish students on their campuses.

Some lawmakers and donors to the the university called for Gay to step down, following the resignation of Liz Magill as president of the University of Pennsylvania on Saturday.

The Harvard Crimson student newspaper first reported Tuesday that Gay, who became Harvard’s first Black president in July, would remain in office with the support of the Harvard Corporation following the conclusion of the board’s meeting. It cited an unnamed source familiar with the decision.

A petition signed by more than 600 faculty members asked the school’s governing body to keep Gay in charge.

“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,” the corporation’s statement said. “Calls for genocide are despicable and contrary to fundamental human values. President Gay has apologized for how she handled her congressional testimony and has committed to redoubling the university’s fight against antisemitism.”

In an interview with The Crimson last week, Gay said she got caught up in a heated exchange at the House committee hearing and failed to properly denounce threats of violence against Jewish students.

“What I should have had the presence of mind to do in that moment was return to my guiding truth, which is that calls for violence against our Jewish community — threats to our Jewish students — have no place at Harvard, and will never go unchallenged,” Gay said.

Testimony from Gay and Magill drew intense national backlash, as have similar responses from the president of MIT, who also testified before the Republican-led House Education and Workforce Committee.

The corporation also addressed allegations of plagiarism against Gay, saying that Harvard became aware of them in late October regarding three articles she had written. It initiated an independent review at Gay’s request.

The corporation reviewed the results on Saturday, “which revealed a few instances of inadequate citation” and found no violation of Harvard’s standards for research misconduct, it said.

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