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Why Is Harvard’s First Black President Claudine Gay Facing Pressure To Resign?


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As the death toll of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip exceeds 18,000– with two-thirds of those killed in the past two months reported to be women and children– Congress held a hearing last week on antisemitism at college campuses.

In the Dec. 5 hearing, which lasted over four hours, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) asked university presidents about their bullying and harassment policies. Among those testifying was Harvard’s first Black president, Claudine Gay.

“Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules on bullying and harassment?” Stefanik asked. Gay responded that Harvard’s “rules around bullying and harassment are quite specific. And if the context in which that language is used amounts to bullying and harassment then we take action against it.”

Stefanik pressed Gay to offer a yes or no answer, and Gay reiterated that “it is antisemitic speech…[and] when speech crosses into conduct we take action.”

Gay has since been pressured to resign, with Harvard alum and hedge fund manager Bill Ackman leading the charge.

Ackman penned an open letter to Harvard’s governing board of directors where, along with condemning her answer, he called into question her leadership in Harvard’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, citing the “straight white male students were excluded from the benefits of the ODEIB [Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging] office.”

Since the uproar, hundreds of Harvard faculty have reportedly signed a letter showing their support for Gay and rejecting calls for her to resign.

Harvard history professor Alison Frank Johnson, who co-authored the petition, wrote in an email, “I get the impression that many people don’t know how much support she has, as a scholar, colleague, and administrator, within the university – including from people who sometimes disagree with her…We don’t want to lose her because of a political stunt.”


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