Claudine Gay has been president of Harvard University only since July, but she has faced criticism on two fronts: her response to rising tensions on campus over the war between Israel and Gaza and questions about possible plagiarism in her academic work.
Below are some key moments during Dr. Gay's tenure as president.
December 15, 2022
Harvard University announces that Dr. Gay, dean of the school's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, will take over as president next year. The daughter of Haitian immigrants, she will be the university's first black leader and the second woman to hold the position. Dr. Gay earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in Harvard government.
July 1, 2023
Dr. Gay, 53, officially starts on the job. A supporter of diversity in hiring and an expert on minority representation and political participation in government, she takes the reins just as the Supreme Court rejected the use of race-conscious admissions at Harvard and other universities across the country.
The day after Hamas's attack on Israel, a coalition of more than 30 Harvard student groups publishes an open letter stating that it holds the Israeli regime “fully responsible for all the violence that is unfolding.” The letter receives an intense reaction.
Dr. Gay and Harvard leaders are criticized for not publicly condemning the Hamas attack or denouncing the student groups' letter. Amid growing pressure from alumni and donors, university leaders, including Dr. Gay, issue a statement expressing grief over the death and destruction caused by the war while calling for “an environment of dialogue and empathy.”
Dr. Gay publishes another letter, this time more strongly condemning the “terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Hamas,” as well as denouncing the letter from the student groups. “While our students have the right to speak for themselves, no student group, not even 30 student groups, speaks on behalf of Harvard University or its leaders,” he says in the letter.
October 12 °
One campaign is targeting students affiliated with the groups that signed the open letter. A truck with a digital billboard, paid for by a conservative group, drives through Harvard Square, displaying photos and names of students under the headline “Harvard's Leading Anti-Semites.” Dr. Gay releases another statement, this time in video format, in which she states that Harvard rejects hate.
Harvard receives an inquiry from the New York Post about what it later describes as “anonymous accusations” of plagiarism in Dr. Gay's work.
At a Saturday dinner at Harvard Hillel, Dr. Gay announces the formation of an advisory group to help her “develop a robust strategy to address anti-Semitism on campus.” She also condemns the phrase “from the river to the sea,” a slogan that pro-Palestinian activists use as a call for liberation, but that many Jews see as a call for violence against them.
According to the university, the Harvard Corporation appoints an independent panel of three experts that day to conduct a review of Dr. Gay's articles referenced in the anonymous allegations.
After coming under fire for weeks for what his detractors said were lukewarm responses to rising anti-Semitism on campus, Dr. Gay writes a letter to members of the broader Harvard community addressing the tensions. “Harvard rejects all forms of hate and we are committed to addressing it,” he writes. “Let me reiterate what other Harvard leaders and I have said before: anti-Semitism has no place at Harvard.”
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights announces an investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism at Harvard.
Dr. Gay, along with the presidents of MIT and the University of Pennsylvania, testifies at a Congressional hearing that House Republicans met to address issues of bias against Jewish students. During the hearing, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, asks: “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard's bullying and harassment rules? Yes or no?”
Dr. Gay responds: “It may be, depending on the context.” And he adds: “Anti-Semitic rhetoric, when it turns into conduct that amounts to intimidation, harassment, is actionable conduct, and we take action.”
After strong criticism of the presidents' responses at the hearing, Dr. Gay apologizes in an interview with The Harvard Crimson, the campus newspaper. “What I should have had the presence of mind to do at that moment was return to my guiding truth, which is that calls for violence against our Jewish community (threats to our Jewish students) have no place at Harvard and will never go without.” answer. ” says Dr. Gay.
Accusations of plagiarism in Dr. Gay's 1997 doctoral thesis are raised publicly in a newsletter by conservative activist Christopher Rufo.
A group of 14 professors begin circulating a petition opposing Dr. Gay's dismissal. He quickly gains hundreds of signatures.
The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative media outlet, publishes its own investigation of Dr. Gay's academic articles, identifying what it said were problems; four of them were published between 1993 and 2017, including his doctoral thesis.
Harvard's board of directors, the Harvard Corporation, acknowledges that Dr. Gay had made mistakes, but decides that she will remain in her job. In its statement, the Corporation briefly addresses the allegations regarding her scholarship. She says an independent investigation investigated her published work and found two articles that needed additional citations, but no “research misconduct.”
Facing growing questions about possible plagiarism in Dr. Gay's academic work, Harvard says it found two additional cases of insufficient citations in Dr. Gay's 1997 doctoral dissertation: examples of “duplicated language without proper attribution.” The university says Dr. Gay will update her thesis correcting those cases.
That same day, a congressional committee investigating Harvard sends a letter to the university demanding all of its documentation and communications related to the allegations.
Anemone Hartocollis, Sara Mervosh, Jennifer Schuessler, Vimal Patel, Dana Goldstein, Jeremy Peters, Rob Copelandand Stephanie Saul contributed reports.
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