Harvard’s ousted president warns of ‘broader war’ in op-ed

Upon being ousted on Tuesday following a successful right-wing campaign, the inaugural African American president of Harvard University avowed that the strategies employed against her constituted “a minor skirmish in a larger struggle to erode public confidence in fundamental aspects of American society.”

On Wednesday, Claudine Gay published an article in The New York Times predicting “trusted institutions of all types — from news organizations to public health agencies — will continue to fall victim to coordinated attempts to undermine their legitimacy and destroy the credibility of their leaders.” Gay’s resignation was announced the day before she returned to her faculty position.

Gay, a political scientist who assumed the historic role of the first Black woman to serve as president of Harvard six months ago, had the shortest tenure in the 388-year history of the institution.

Straightforwardly acknowledging her errors, Gay made her first significant remark since issuing her official statement proclaiming her resignation from Harvard. However, she further contended that her request to provide testimony to Congress regarding antisemitism on prestigious college campuses was “shrewdly orchestrated” and that “the campaign against me pervaded beyond a single university and a single leader.”

Gay Warns of Ongoing Threats

Gay cautioned that the blueprint that had been effectively employed against her would shortly be applied to other leaders within the institution. “Opportunists who sow discontentment with our institutions are not depleted by a single victory or deposed leader,” she stated.

A month ago, a campaign was launched against Gay, involving prominent Harvard donors, on the grounds of plagiarism and antisemitism allegations in her academic work. The campaign centered on several passages in her work that were strikingly similar to the work of other scholars, without the proper citations, and on her widely criticized remarks during a December congressional hearing on antisemitism on college campuses.

Gay expressed regret once more for her congressional remarks that incited bipartisan backlash by failing to speak forcefully enough against antisemitism on campus. In her article, she wrote, “I should have stated more forcefully what all people of good conscience know: Hamas is a terrorist organization that seeks to obliterate the Jewish state.” Furthermore, she said, “I failed to clearly articulate that calls for the genocide of Jewish people are abhorrent and unacceptable, and I would employ every available opportunity to prevent such remarks.”

However, she defended the originality and worth of her research while acknowledging that her published work contained duplicated language “without proper attribution” from other scholars. Some of the academics whose work Gay was charged with plagiarizing had previously expressed to the media their perception that the citation issues emphasized by conservative media outlets were of little consequence or nonexistent. One scholar characterized it as “technically plagiarism,” while another described it as “minor-to-inconsequential.” Still, another scholar stated, “This does not even come close to constituting an instance of academic plagiarism.”

Opposition to DEI Programs

This week, a number of the activists who most prominently opposed Gay clarified that their objective was to oppose “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) programmes in all institutions in the United States and to criticize DEI as a movement, as opposed to simply opposing the decisions of a single Harvard president.

In a 4,000-word Twitter/X post, Bill Ackman, a Harvard donor and billionaire hedge fund manager who had been one of Gay’s most prominent public critics, stated that diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives were “racist” and dangerous, that “reverse racism” and “racism against white people” were of concern to him, and that DEI was “a powerful movement that has not only permeated Harvard but the educational system at large” that required opposition.

Additionally, Ackman expressed in writing his conviction that Gay was “not qualified” to serve as president of Harvard and that her initial selection had been influenced by diversity considerations.

The ousting campaign against Gay, which received extensive coverage in major mainstream and conservative US media, has faced widespread criticism for its discriminatory nature.

Harvard Controversy: Personal Attacks and Resignation

Gay wrote in The Times that she had received an overwhelming number of death threats in recent weeks and that “I’ve been called the N-word more often than I care to remember.” She claimed that “recycled, tired racial stereotypes about Black talent and temperament” and “a false narrative of indifference and incompetence” had been directed at her.

The Harvard Corporation, one of Harvard’s governing committees, condemned the racist slander directed at her via disgraceful emails and phone calls when she tendered her resignation on Tuesday.

Gay stated that “few have commented on the substance of my scholarship, which focuses on the significance of minority office holding in American politics” and the “concrete evidence” that increasing the representation of people of colour in “the halls of power” can strengthen US democracy, despite the preoccupation with allegations of plagiarism in her peer-reviewed research.

Elise Stefanik, a Republican congresswoman and ally of Donald Trump who sparked widespread interest in his op-ed regarding Harvard’s response to campus calls for genocide, stated that their exchange “was not a ‘well-laid trap'” but rather Gay’s personal “catastrophic failure.”

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