Harvard’s first black president, who resigned Tuesday after a successful right-wing campaign to unseat her, warned that the tactics used against her were “simply a skirmish in a broader war to undo public faith in the pillars of American society.” ”.
“Trusted institutions of all kinds – from public health agencies to news organizations – will continue to fall victim to coordinated attempts to undermine their legitimacy and ruin the credibility of their leaders,” Claudine Gay wrote in the New York Times on Wednesday, a day after he announced he was resigning from his position.
Gay, a political scientist who was named six months ago as Harvard’s first black woman president, had the shortest term in the university’s 388-year history.
In his first major comment since his official Harvard statement announcing his resignation, Gay bluntly admitted that “I made mistakes.” But he also argued that his invitation to testify before Congress about anti-Semitism on elite college campuses had been “a well-laid trap” and that “the campaign against me was about more than one university and one leader.” .
The playbook that had been successfully used against her would soon be mobilized against other institutional leaders, Gay warned. “For the opportunists who push cynicism about our institutions, no victory or overthrown leader exhausts her zeal,” she said.
Over the past month, the campaign against Gay, which included prominent Harvard donors, had focused on accusations of anti-Semitism and plagiarism in his academic work, focusing on his widely criticized comments during a December congressional hearing on anti-Semitism in university campuses and in multiple passages of his academic work that closely resembled the work of other scholars, without appropriate citations.
Gay once again said he regretted not speaking out strongly enough against anti-Semitism on campus in congressional comments that had sparked bipartisan reactionwriting: “She should have stated more forcefully what all people of good conscience know: Hamas is a terrorist organization that seeks to eradicate the Jewish State” and that she had “failed to clearly articulate that calls for the genocide of the Jewish people are abhorrent.” . and unacceptable and that I would use every tool at my disposal to protect students from that type of hate.”
But he defended the value and originality of his scholarship, even as he admitted that he had duplicated language from other scholars “without proper attribution” in his published work. Several of the academics whose work Gay was accused of plagiarism had previously told the media that they considered the citation problems highlighted by conservative media outlets to be relatively minor, or even It’s not plagiarism at all.with a scholar calling him “technically plagiarism” but “minor to inconsequential,” and another saying: “This is not even close to an example of academic plagiarism.”
Some of the activists who campaigned most prominently against Gay made clear this week that their broader goal was to oppose “diversity, equity and inclusion” (DEI) programs in all universities in the united states and attacking DEI as a movement, not simply opposing the elections of an individual Harvard president.
Bill Ackman, the billionaire hedge fund manager and Harvard donor who had been one of Gay’s top supporters. prominent public criticswrote in a 4,000-word Twitter/X post who believed that diversity, equity and inclusion efforts were “racist” and dangerous, who was concerned about “reverse racism” and “anti-white racism,” and that he saw DEI as “a powerful movement that has not only invaded Harvard, but also the educational system in general” and that had to be opposed.
Ackman also wrote that he believed Gay was “not qualified” to be president of Harvard and said he believed diversity considerations had influenced her initial selection.
The campaign to unseat Gay, which was covered closely by both right-wing and mainstream American media, has been widely criticized as racist.
In recent weeks, Gay wrote in the Times, his inbox had been inundated with death threats and that “I’ve been called the N-word more times than I care to count.” She said he had been subjected to “tired recycled racial stereotypes about black talent and temperament” and “a false narrative of indifference and incompetence.”
In announcing her resignation on Tuesday, the Harvard Corporation, one of Harvard’s boards of directors, also condemned the “racist virtriol directed at her through embarrassing emails and phone calls.”
Despite obsessive attention to accusations of plagiarism in his peer-reviewed research, Gay wrote that “few have commented on the substance of my research, which focuses on the importance of holding minority offices in American politics,” and on the “concrete evidence.” that increasing the representation of people of color in “the halls of power” can strengthen American democracy.
Elise Stefanik, a Republican member of Congress and Donald Trump ally whose questions to Gay about Harvard’s approach to calls for genocide on campus went viral, responded to Gay’s op-ed saying that their exchange “was not a ‘well-laid trap’” but Gay’s own “catastrophic failure.”