The president of Harvard University has resigned after being accused of plagiarism and criticised over her comments on antisemitism on campus.
Claudine Gay, Harvard’s first black president, announced her departure just six months into her tenure in a letter to the Harvard community.
In her resignation letter, Gay announced that she will be returning to her position as a member of the faculty.
“As I now return to the faculty, and to the scholarship and teaching that are the lifeblood of what we do, I pledge to continue working alongside you to build the community we all deserve,” she wrote.
Gay’s resignation makes her tenure as president the shortest in the Ivy league institution.
On 5 December, Gay, along with the presidents of MIT and the University of Pennsylvania testified before Congress about their campuses’ handling of accusations of antisemitism, at the start of the Israel-Gaza war. All three presidents offered legalistic answers.
Following their testimonies, more than 70 US lawmakers signed a letter in response demanding the presidents be removed. The University of Pennsylvania’s president resigned on 9 December after which Gay apologized later for her answers.The campaign against Gay’s presidency was largely promoted by conservative activists, including those who oppose diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. They argued that Gay was hired not because of her decades of academic work and recognition, but rather because she is Black.
Fresh plagiarism allegations surfaced last Monday in a conservative online journal that has led the campaign against Gay. Following the initial complaints, Gay defended her work. “I stand by the integrity of my scholarship,” she wrote. Gay later added additional quotes and citations to the articles.
Further commenting on the allegations, Gay wrote in her resignation letter, “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 fuelled by racial animus”.Despite the plagiarism accusations, Gay won a statement of confidence from Harvard Corporation, the school’s governing board. She enjoyed support from colleagues, including hundreds of professors signing a petition opposing calls for her to back down, and advocates who saw the attacks on her presidency as threatening free speech.
Gay’s resignation is effective 2 January.