Harvard President Claudine Gay Resigns After Testimony on Antisemitism, Plagiarism Accusations

Alan M. Garber, the university's provost and chief academic officer, will serve as interim president, the Harvard Corporation announced.
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Published on January 2, 2024
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  • Harvard President Claudine Gay is resigning amid allegations of plagiarism and backlash over her testimony at a congressional hearing about antisemitism.
  • Gay was the first person of color and the second woman to hold the office.
  • The Harvard Corporation said that Gay had been subjected to racist attacks.

Harvard University President Claudine Gay announced her resignation following criticism over her response to antisemitism on campus and allegations that she plagiarized other academics.

Alan M. Garber, the university's provost and chief academic officer, will serve as interim president, the Harvard Corporation announced Tuesday.

In a message to the university community, the Harvard Corporation said that it accepted Gay's resignation "with sorrow" and thanked her for her "deep and unwavering commitment to Harvard and the pursuit of academic excellence."

"These past several months have seen Harvard and higher education face a series of sustained and unprecedented challenges," the Harvard Corporation wrote. "In the face of escalating controversy and conflict, President Gay and the Fellows have sought to be guided by the best interests of the institution whose future progress and well-being we are together committed to uphold."

Gay will retain her faculty position at the university.

In a separate message to the university community, Gay called her decision to step down "difficult beyond words."

"After consultation with members of the Corporation, it has become clear that it is in the best interest of Harvard for me to resign so that our community can navigate this moment of extraordinary challenge with a focus on the institution rather than any individual," she wrote.

Her six-month tenure is the shortest in Harvard history.

Gay's Tenure Marred by Remarks at Congressional Hearing, Accusations of Plagiarism

Harvard announced Gay's appointment as university president at the end of 2022 and she officially began her tenure on July 1, 2023.

Gay was the first person of color and the second woman to lead the Ivy League institution since its founding in 1636. She previously served as the Edgerley Family Dean of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Criticism of Gay began following her initial responses to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel and subsequent accusations of antisemitism on Harvard's campus.

Then, in early December, her testimony on antisemitism on college campuses before the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce became a flashpoint after she and other Ivy League leaders declined to condemn speech calling for the genocide of Jewish people.

In her testimony, Gay affirmed students' right to free expression "even of views that we find objectionable and outrageous and offensive." She added that only "when that expression turns into conduct" would the school intervene and hold students accountable.

Later in the hearing, Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York asked Gay, "At Harvard, does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard's rules of bullying and harassment, yes or no?" to which President Gay replied, "It can be, depending on the context."

While Gay had faced pressure from Harvard's Jewish community and some members of Congress to resign, support for her seemed strong, and the Harvard Corporation released a statement unanimously supporting her.

However, following her testimony, increased scrutiny of Gay led to accusations that she had plagiarized other academics in several published papers and her Ph.D. dissertation.

The Harvard Corporation in December announced that reviews of her work uncovered instances of "inadequate citation" but no violations of the university's standards for research misconduct. Gay proactively requested four corrections in two articles to insert citations and quotation marks that were omitted from the original publications, the corporation said.

Gay and the Harvard Corporation said in their letters to the community that she had been subjected to racist attacks.

"Amidst all of this, it has been distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigor — two bedrock values that are fundamental to who I am — and frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus," Gay said.

The Harvard Corporation said Gay had shown remarkable resilience in the face of "deeply personal and sustained attacks."

"While some of this has played out in the public domain," the Harvard Corporation said, "much of it has taken the form of repugnant and in some cases racist vitriol directed at her through disgraceful emails and phone calls. We condemn such attacks in the strongest possible terms."