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Why Did Claudine Gay Resign From Harvard Presidency?

Harvard University's president Claudine Gay stepped down on Tuesday, amid antisemitism and plagiarism allegations. Politicians and activists took to social media to express their reaction to Gay's resignation, many calling it a much-needed action.

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Tanya Savkoor
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claudine gay steps down

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Harvard University's first black president ended her tenure on Tuesday, as she faced mounting pressure to step down amid antisemitism and plagiarism allegations. Claudine Gay served the shortest tenure as the University's president, releasing a resignation letter following weeks of controversy. "It is with a heavy heart but a deep love for Harvard that I write to share that I will be stepping down as president," the 53-year-old wrote. However, the university's 11-member governing body, the Harvard Corporation, said that Gay would resume her faculty position after resigning, inviting more backlash.

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Like many other Ivy Leagues, the esteemed institution has been facing months of criticism for allegedly glossing over the safety concerns of their Jewish student during the Israel-Hamas war. The controversy worsened as Gay made a questionable remark during a congressional hearing last month about the killing of Jews in the US. She served as the University's president for less than six months.

Why Did Claudine Gay Have To Resign?

During the tense hearing, Gay and several other academicians were asked their respective universities' response to the "genocide of Jews". Gay evaded a direct response and stated that while the violence against innocent Jews was abhorrent, Harvard University depends on 'more context' on what its code of conduct considers harassment and bullying on campus. 

This stance inevitably sparked widespread retaliation from students, politicians, and activists, and several other academicians who spoke at the event also faced tremendous backlash. Gay later apologised stating, "When words amplify distress and pain, I don't know how you could feel anything but regret." However, amid all this controversy, the US media revealed some more compromising details about the academician. 

Reports accusing Gay of plagiarism in her research work began circulating and the University's board found that some of her academic records did, in fact, lack necessary citations. While esteemed alumni from Harvard and several politicians called for Gay's resignation, forcing her to step down on Tuesday. However, the University board insisted on letting Gay keep her faculty status despite the controversies.

Board, Alumni, Politicians React To Resignation

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Harvard University's board insist that forcing their first black president to resign reveals a racist motive. "While some of this (controversy) has played out in the public domain, much of it has taken the form of repugnant and in some cases racist vitriol directed at her through disgraceful emails and phone calls," the corporation said in a statement, adding, "We condemn such attacks in the strongest possible terms."

Writer Christopher Rufo took to Twitter to express his reaction to Gay's lengthy resignation letter and the University board's stance. He took a jab at the DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) ideology.

Republican congresswoman and Harvard alumna Elise Stefanik said in an X post that Gay's resignation was "long overdue." She released a statement saying, "Her answers (at the congressional hearing) were absolutely pathetic and devoid of the moral leadership and academic integrity required of the president of Harvard."

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US Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy also tweeted in support of Gay's resignation. "Better late than never," the 2007 Harvard graduate said, further recounting the resignation of the University's president during his time there. He also insinuated that Claudine Gay became the president on the basis of affirmative action and not merit.

Meanwhile, political scientist Carol M. Swain believes that Gay's apology is half-hearted. "Ms Gay is setting a terrible example for our America’s youth. A REAL leader would have accepted responsibility for their mistakes and resigned for the sake of the institution. A heartfelt apology from Ms Gay would have gone a long way towards establishing a teachable moment," she tweeted.

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Harvard University Racism harvard president Claudine Gay Israel Hamas Conflict antisemitism
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