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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Claudine Gay to stay on as president of Harvard University, school’s governing board announces

Dr Gay now faces challenge of regaining confidence of Harvard community, which has been roiled by conflict in Gaza

Jeremy W. Peters, Alan Blinder, Anemona Hartocollis New York Published 13.12.23, 11:07 AM
Harvard University president Claudine Gay

Harvard University president Claudine Gay Reuters file picture

Claudine Gay will stay on as president of Harvard University, the school’s governing board announced on Tuesday, despite an uproar over her evasive answers at a congressional hearing about campus antisemitism.

The members of the board, the Harvard Corporation, deliberated into the night on Monday before finally deciding not to remove Dr Gay, the university’s first black president, from her post.

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“As members of the Harvard Corporation, we today reaffirm our support for President Gay’s continued leadership of Harvard University,” said a statement signed by all the board members other than Dr Gay. “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 statement goes on, however, to acknowledge that Dr Gay had made mistakes, including in her initial reaction to Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel. “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,” it said.

Dr Gay now faces the challenge of regaining the confidence of the Harvard community, which has been roiled by the conflict in Gaza.

Support for her presidency, which began in July, began eroding with her initial reluctance to condemn the Hamas attacks. After criticism from influential figures like Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary, Dr Gay issued stronger condemnations, but that was not enough to assuage the fears of many Jewish students or alumni.

After her disastrous December 5 appearance before Congress, donors, alumni and students ratcheted up a pressure campaign to oust her, while supporters banded together to try to save her job. About 700 members of Harvard’s faculty, and hundreds more alumni, came to her defense in several open letters.

One of the letters, from black faculty members, called the attacks on the president “specious and politically motivated”. The letter, which was drafted and signed by some of Harvard’s most prominent professors, said that Dr Gay “should be given the chance to fulfil her term to demonstrate her vision for Harvard”.

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