Harvard President Claudine Gay has resigned, ending a turbulent six-month tenure, marking the shortest presidency in the university’s history.
“It is with a heavy heart but a deep love for Harvard that I write to share that I will be stepping down as president,” Gay wrote in a letter to the Harvard community.
The Harvard Crimson first reported Gay’s resignation.
The Harvard Corporation. which governs the university, said in a statement that it had accepted Gay’s resignation, adding that she had shown “remarkable resilience” in response to personal attacks, including ”racist vitriol.”
The Corporation said Alan M. Garber, Harvard’s Provost and Chief Academic Officer, would serve as interim president and that the search for Gay’s successor would “begin in due course.”
Gay’s fall from grace comes in the wake of growing allegations of plagiarism in her published research and her evasive answers about combatting antisemitism on campus during a congressional hearing.
Questions over Gay’s academic work sparked a plagiarism debate
Gay’s resignation comes after fresh plagiarism allegations against her were published Monday in The Washington Free Beacon, which followed similar claims about her academic work circulated by conservative activists in December. The findings sparked a debate about Harvard’s plagiarism policy and whether its president should be held to the same standard as students. Criticism of Gay’s publishing record dates back to her 1997 PhD thesis, in which she was accused of citing the works of other scholars without proper attribution.
As recently as December 12, Harvard’s oversight board appeared to back Gay, saying that a review of her work turned up a few instances of “inadequate citation” but did not violate the university’s standards on research misconduct, according to the Boston Globe. And David Canon, one of the scholars Gay is alleged to have copied from, told the Washington Free Beacon, ”this isn’t even close to an example of academic plagiarism.”
Downfall of first Black president is a blow for diversity advocates
The downfall of Harvard’s first Black president – and only its second woman leader – after a short, tumultuous tenure is a bitter blow for those who cheered her appointment in July as a small correction to the vast underrepresentation of women of color in higher education.
In her resignation letter, Gay said she had been subjected to personal attacks and threats “fueled by racial animus.” Right-wing commentators criticized her appointment as based on diversity rather than her academic record. A conservative columnist wrote in The Wall Street Journal that “her administrative experience and scholarly credentials don’t begin to match those of other people in similar posts,” prompting a stark rebuttal from more than 80 Black academics who signed a letter calling such suggestions “specious and politically motivated.”
Resignation a win for Republicans in ideological battle on college campuses
The GOP was quick to claim victory after Gay’s resignation, seeing it as a win in what one Republican congresswoman branded “a hostile takeover of postsecondary education by political activists, woke faculty, and partisan administrators,” according to ABC News. “TWO DOWN” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) – whose line of questioning at the congressional hearing had already triggered the resignation of University of Pennsylvania’s president – wrote in an X post accompanied by red siren emojis.
In December, hundreds of faculty members signed letters calling on Harvard’s board to resist removing Gay, fearing the implications of what they see as a broader right-wing assault on higher education. “Republican Congressional leaders have declared war on the independence of colleges and universities [and] will only be emboldened by Gay’s resignation,” one professor at the Harvard Kennedy School told The New York Times.