In a significant show of support, the Harvard Corporation has unanimously backed President Claudine Gay, affirming her leadership amidst a challenging week that saw calls for her resignation from donors and politicians.
The Harvard Corporation, the university’s top governing body, declared in a statement, “As members of the Harvard Corporation, we today reaffirm our support for President Gay’s continued leadership of Harvard University.” They emphasized their confidence in President Gay, citing her ability to guide the community through serious societal challenges.
This endorsement followed a meeting of the Corporation on Monday, with their decision announced on Tuesday morning. The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, first reported the news.
The Corporation’s statement highlighted their unanimous support for President Gay, particularly during these challenging times.
Additionally, all five living former Harvard presidents, including economist Larry Summers, expressed their backing. “As former Presidents of Harvard University, we offer our strong support for Claudine Gay as she leads Harvard into the future,” their joint statement read.
Despite Summers’ past criticisms of Gay, the statement from the former presidents underscored their collective commitment to support her leadership at Harvard.
The support for Gay comes in the wake of her testimony about antisemitism at American universities before a House committee, which stirred controversy and led to calls for her removal. This testimony resulted in the resignation of UPenn President Liz Magill, who testified alongside Gay, and elicited criticism from high-profile figures, including House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik.
Stefanik criticized Harvard’s support for Gay, highlighting the global attention the testimony received and labeling it a “moral failure” of leadership.
Yet, support for Gay was also evident from hundreds of faculty and alumni, possibly influencing the Corporation’s decision. Over 700 faculty members signed a petition backing Gay, while the Executive Committee of Harvard University’s Alumni Association and over 800 Black alumni expressed their unequivocal support.
Harvard economic policy professor Jason Furman, a former adviser to President Obama, commended the Corporation’s decision, emphasizing the need for continued progress and improvement at the university.
The controversy surrounding Gay’s testimony, where she and other university presidents were criticized for their responses to questions about campus safety and antisemitism, remains a point of contention. MIT’s board expressed support for its president, Sally Kornbluth, while Gay apologized for her handling of the testimony in an interview with the Crimson.
In its statement, the Corporation acknowledged that Gay’s response to the committee’s questioning should have been more direct and unequivocal in condemning calls for genocide. The Corporation also confirmed that an independent review of Gay’s writings found minor citation issues but no violation of Harvard’s research misconduct standards.
Despite the support, Gay continues to face criticism and calls for her resignation, notably from Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik and billionaire hedge fund CEO Bill Ackman, among others. Ackman has raised questions about Gay’s academic integrity, which she has firmly denied, asserting the integrity of her scholarship. The Harvard Crimson’s independent review of her work highlighted some issues with citations, though the extent of these issues remains a topic of debate.