Amid resignation calls, Harvard’s Claudine Gay finds support from over 500 faculty members


Amidst growing calls for Harvard University President Claudine Gay’s resignation, a faction of faculty members is vehemently supporting her, contending that she is unfairly targeted for poorly phrased comments on antisemitism. As the pressure intensifies, the crucial decision lies with the Harvard Corporation, set to convene on Monday.

(FILES) Dr. Claudine Gay, President of Harvard University, testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on December 05, 2023. The president of Harvard publicly apologized in an interview published on December 8, 2023, for remarks she made during a congressional hearing about anti-Semitism on US campuses amid the Israel-Hamas conflict. Claudine Gay, a professor who has led the prestigious US university since July 2023, was asked on December 5, 2023, whether calls for "genocide" against Jews would violate Harvard's code of conduct, to which she did not respond with a direct affirmative. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)(AFP)
(FILES) Dr. Claudine Gay, President of Harvard University, testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on December 05, 2023. The president of Harvard publicly apologized in an interview published on December 8, 2023, for remarks she made during a congressional hearing about anti-Semitism on US campuses amid the Israel-Hamas conflict. Claudine Gay, a professor who has led the prestigious US university since July 2023, was asked on December 5, 2023, whether calls for “genocide” against Jews would violate Harvard’s code of conduct, to which she did not respond with a direct affirmative. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)(AFP)

Over 500 Harvard faculty members have rallied behind Dr. Gay, signing a petition urging resistance against political pressures conflicting with the institution’s commitment to academic freedom. In response to her inadequate remarks before a congressional committee last Tuesday, Dr. Gay expressed regret, acknowledging the distress caused. She is the first Black woman to helm Harvard, having assumed the role less than six months ago.

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As the controversy deepens, the University of Pennsylvania’s president, M. Elizabeth Magill, resigned on Saturday, with donors demanding Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s president, Sally Kornbluth, step aside. The furor stemmed from Dr. Gay’s seeming equivocation when asked about university policies on calling for the genocide of Jewish people.

Representative Elise Stefanik, a Harvard graduate and key figure in the congressional hearing, commented on social media, stating, “One down. Two to go,” referring to Ms. Magill’s resignation as the bare minimum required. However, some prominent Harvard Corporation members and Dr. Gay have refrained from commenting on the situation.

Recent developments have escalated beyond campus boundaries, with Congressional Republicans initiating an investigation into three institutions, and major donors threatening to withdraw multimillion-dollar gifts. The swift turn of events has left academia stunned and empowered critics who argue that elite universities are inadequately addressing antisemitic rhetoric.

The controversy reached its peak during the congressional hearing, where Dr. Gay faced intense questioning. Representative Stefanik probed whether calling for the genocide of Jews violated Harvard’s rules, to which Dr. Gay responded that it depends on the context. This exchange triggered more reactions among donors and alumni than on campus, where faculty and students are focused on impending exams.

Harvard’s Board of Overseers, including elected alumni and leaders like Dr. Gay, convened on Sunday, addressing the university’s response to recent geopolitical events. The Harvard Corporation is set to discuss Dr. Gay’s future on Monday. Insiders reveal a tension within the Corporation board between perceived mishandling of questions and a resistance to external pressures forcing an ouster.

Dr. Gay, having expressed confidence in the Corporation’s support, faces a pivotal moment as the institution navigates an unprecedented crisis, grappling with internal dissent, external scrutiny, and the delicate balance between academic freedom and political pressures.