Harvard University’s President, Claudine Gay came under mounting pressure to step down over the weekend as influential alumni, donors, and politicians are urging her resignation. But despite the calls for her ouster, a small contingent of faculty members rallied in her support, contending that she was unfairly targeted for what came down to a poorly articulated comment on antisemitism.
Hedge fund manager Billionaire Bill Ackman, founder and chief executive officer of Pershing Square Capital Management, sent a nasty letter to the members of the Harvard Governing Boards that eviscerated President Gay’s record in a detailed and merciless manner, opening with:
“In her short tenure as President, Claudine Gay has done more damage to the reputation of Harvard University than any individual in our nearly 500-year history.”
Please see my letter today to @Harvard governing boards of directors:
December 10, 2023
Dear Members of the Harvard Governing Boards:
In her short tenure as President, Claudine Gay has done more damage to the reputation of Harvard University than any individual in our nearly…
— Bill Ackman (@BillAckman) December 10, 2023
Prof. Alan Dershowitz tweeted a string of videos depicting blatant acts of antisemitism on the Harvard campus, and asked, “Is advocating the genocide of Jews protected speech?” Dershowitz roared: “Fire Harvard’s Claudine Gay from my old college now – and then dismantle, discredit, and utterly destroy the Orwellian DEI groupthink that put her there.”
— Alan Dershowitz (@AlanDersh) December 9, 2023
DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. But in reality, as Ackman put it, “President Gay’s actions and inactions have gravely interfered with the ability of students to continue to learn at Harvard and for its faculty to teach and do research. Classes are continually disrupted by protesters who use bullhorns and other disruptive methods, and the offending students suffer no disciplinary action.
“Literally, as I write this post, highly disruptive protests are underway inside Widener Library while students are trying to study for final exams and finish their term papers during the last two weeks of the semester.
“As a result of President Gay’s failure to enforce Harvard’s own rules, Jewish students, faculty and others are fearful for their own safety as even the physical abuse of students remains unpunished.
Last Tuesday, America and the world watched a shocking display of three Ivy League schools’ presidents who appeared before a Congressional committee and astonishingly refused to advocate for the reprimand of demonstrators on their respective campuses over openly endorsing mass violence against Jews (see video above).
Expressing her growing frustration, Representative Elise Stefanki (R-NY) addressed Harvard President Gay during the hearing, demanding clarity. “I will ask you once more,” she implored, “does advocating for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s policies on bullying and harassment? Yes or no?”
In response, Gay adopted a seemingly authoritative tone but provided a response lacking substantive meaning. “Antisemitic rhetoric, when it transforms into conduct amounting to bullying, harassment, intimidation, is actionable conduct, and we do take action,” she stated.
Persistently seeking a straightforward answer, Stefanki pressed further, asking if calling for the genocide of Jews breached Harvard’s Code of Conduct. “It depends on the context,” Gay replied ambiguously.
Dismissing this equivocation, Stefanki exploded, asserting, “It does not depend on the context. The answer is Yes. This is why you should resign.”
And resign she will.
Billboard trucks demanding Gay’s dismissal made a prominent appearance on the Harvard campus on Sunday, Fox News reported. The trucks, funded privately, boldly displayed the message “FIRE GAY,” featuring images of Gay during her congressional appearance last Tuesday. One of these trucks circulated around the campus, while the other was strategically positioned at the main gate, broadcasting Gay’s exchange with Rep. Stefanik.
The private funder orchestrating the billboard truck campaign is also planning to deploy a plane over the campus this week, carrying a banner with the message, “HARVARD — STOP JEW HATRED.”
This billboard campaign follows a similar protest on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus last week, where calls were made for the removal of Penn President Elizabeth Magill, who eventually resigned on Saturday.
However, Gay received some support from Harvard faculty members. By Sunday night, more than 500 of them had signed a petition urging President Gay “in the strongest possible terms” to “resist political pressures that are at odds with Harvard’s commitment to academic freedom.”
According to the NY Times, Harvard has about 2,300 faculty members.
Ackman noted that President Gay’s failed leadership did not begin with her presidency, noting that “during her tenure as Dean and now as president, Gay has squelched speech she disfavors while defending and thereby amplifying vile and threatening hate speech, exhibiting a remarkable double standard. In the words of Professor Steven Pinker:
“Claudine was technically correct that students can’t be punished for political chants, but when Harvard et al. have no prior credible commitment to academic freedom, institutional neutrality & viewpoint diversity, the born-again appeal to principle seems incriminating.”
Ackman revealed: “In recent weeks, I have learned a lot about DEI practices at Harvard and have come to the conclusion that the Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, which was formed in 2019 under Dean Gay’s oversight and vision the year after she became Dean of FAS, is none of those things. In fact, the actions of the OEDIB have led to preferences and favoritism for certain racial, gender, and LGBTQ+ groups at the expense of other groups, and made some members of the Harvard community feel included at the expense of others that are excluded.”
President Gay was interviewed by the Harvard Crimson last Friday, under the fetching headline: “‘I Am Sorry’: Harvard President Gay Addresses Backlash Over Congressional Testimony on Antisemitism.” The article recalled her first letter of apology that was issued last Wednesday, one day after the hearing:
“There are some who have confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone calls for violence against Jewish students. Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account.”
Somehow Gay found the courage to utter on Wednesday what she should have told the Congressional committee the day before.
“But the damage had been done, an error Gay acknowledged on Thursday as the fallout continued,” The Crimson continued. “The House Committee on Education and the Workforce announced an official congressional investigation into antisemitism at Harvard. Hours later, Rabbi David Wolpe resigned from an advisory group to combat antisemitism on campus that Gay established only weeks earlier, citing her congressional testimony.”
“I got caught up in what had become at that point, an extended, combative exchange about policies and procedures,” Gay said in the Crimson interview. “What I should have had the presence of mind to do in 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 unchallenged.”
“Substantively, I failed to convey what is my truth,” Gay said, adding that over the past two months, she has heard “wrenching testimony about how much pain” Jewish students are in on her campus.
“To contemplate that something I said amplified that pain — that’s really difficult,” she said. “It makes me sad.”
Also, hopefully, unemployed.