The president of the prestigious American University of Harvard, Claudine Gay, announced her resignation on Tuesday, after accusations of plagiarism and a tense congressional hearing on combating anti-Semitism on campuses.
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“With a heavy heart, but with deep love for Harvard, I write to announce that I will step down from my position as president,” Claudine Guy, 53, said in her resignation letter published Tuesday.
The political science professor – who in July became the first black president of Harvard University, located near Boston – has come under fire in recent weeks.
She was targeted by accusations of plagiarism related to her university work, fueled by a conservative website, and by criticism related to her responses, during a parliamentary hearing on combating anti-Semitism in universities, to elected Republican official Elise Stefanik, who likened some students’ calls for an “uprising” to incitement to “exterminate Jews in Israel and around the world.”
Since the deadly attack by Hamas in Israel on October 7, which was followed by deadly retaliations by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip, the conflict has unleashed passions on America's most famous campuses.
Tuesday, December 5, in a tense atmosphere, Claudine Guy and her counterparts from the University of Pennsylvania and MIT, Elizabeth Magill and Sally Kornbluth, answered questions from elected officials in the House of Representatives for five hours.
When Stefanik asked whether “advocating the genocide of Jews violates Harvard’s harassment policy, yes or no?” “Maybe, depending on the context,” Ms Jay replied, before adding: “If so.” directed against someone.”
Ms. Magill answered the same question: “If talk turns into action, it can become harassment.” “It's a context-dependent decision.”
Their responses, which went viral, caused an uproar even in the White House, whose spokesman, Andrew Bates, said it was “preposterous to say this: calls for genocide are brutal.”
“It was complicated to see my commitments to confronting hate and upholding academic rigor questioned,” Claudine Guy said in her resignation letter. “And frightening to be the subject of personal attacks and threats fueled by racism.”
She became the second president of the Ivy League – which includes eight elite universities – to resign. In December, Elizabeth Magill of the University of Pennsylvania resigned in the face of pressure.
More than 70 parliamentarians, including two Democrats, as well as former students and well-known donors, have called for Ms. Gay's departure. However, the president received support from the educational community and was retained in her position in mid-December.
Harvard's board of governors, which accepted Ms. Gay's resignation on Tuesday, praised her “remarkable resilience in the face of persistent and deeply personal attacks.”
“Although part of this case occurred in a public manner, a significant portion of it took the form of vile and in some cases racist attacks against her via shameful emails and phone calls,” the foundation said in a statement.
For her part, Republican Representative Elise Stefanik described this resignation as “very late” in history.
Born in New York to a family of Haitian immigrants, Claudine Guy would have the shortest term as president in the university's history since its founding in Cambridge, near Boston, in 1636.
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