Claudine Gay resigned as president of Harvard University on Tuesday afternoon, marking the end of what The Harvard Crimson, the campus’ student newspaper, described as the shortest presidency in the school’s 387-year history.
“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,” Gay said in a statement to the Harvard community. “This is not a decision that I came to easily. Indeed, it has been difficult beyond words because I have looked forward to working with so many of you to advance the commitment to academic excellence that has propelled this great university across centuries.”
Gay, who assumed the presidency at Harvard last July, explained that she consulted with the Harvard Corporation, the university’s highest governing body, to make her decision.
“After consultation with members of the corporation, it has become clear that it is in the best interests of Harvard for me to resign so that our community can navigate this moment of extraordinary challenge with a focus on the institution rather than any individual.”
Demands for Gay’s resignation proliferated last month after she told a US congressional committee that calling for a genocide of Jews would only violate school rules “depending on the context.” That remark followed several disturbing antisemitic incidents on campus, including the mobbing of a Jewish law student by a throng of anti-Zionist protesters screaming “Shame!” into his ears.
In an earlier incident, dozens of Harvard student groups signed a letter blaming Israel for Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel. Gay, who defended their right to free speech and declined to issue disciplinary sanctions, was criticized for not punishing the students involved and not denouncing antisemitism in stronger terms.
Gay survived Harvard’s antisemitism scandals, appearing at events held by campus Jewish groups and ultimately issuing strong statements against rising antisemitism amid backlash for not initially doing more. However, conservative activist Christopher Rufo and journalist Aaron Sibarium later revealed on X/Twitter examples of plagiarism in Gay’s early academic work, including her dissertation completed in Stanford University’s Department of Political Science. Their reporting added ammunition to the case for Gay’s resignation.
Since then, more allegations of plagiarism have surfaced. Most recently, the Washington Free Beacon on Monday reported that a new unsigned complaint filed with Harvard had alleged six new allegations against Gay.
Gay’s statement on Tuesday alluded to the plagiarism issues, with Gay, a Black woman, alleging that she was a victim of racial animus. She did not mention how the plagiarism discovered in her academic work could affect the professional lives of other academics of color in elite higher education and others who hope to join them.
With her resignation, Gay is the second Ivy League president in less than month to resign from her position. Elizabeth Magill, former president of the University of Pennsylvania, resigned in December following a torrent of criticism she received for allegedly mishandling numerous antisemitic outrages on campus and saying that punishing antisemitic speech is “context-dependent.” Like Gay, she said that calling for the genocide of Jews did not necessarily constitute bullying and harassment on campus.
Gay’s resignation comes amid mounting pressure on universities to take a firm stance against extreme anti-Zionist and antisemitic harassment and intimidation.
US college campuses have experienced an alarming spike in antisemitic incidents — including demonstrations calling for Israel’s destruction and the intimidation and harassment of Jewish students — since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel. Elite universities have been among the biggest hubs of such activity, with students and faculty both demonizing Israel and rationalizing the Hamas atrocities.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has recorded 470 antisemitic incidents on college campuses between Oct. 7 and Dec. 18. During that same period, antisemitic incidents across the US skyrocketed by 323 percent compared to the prior year.
Gay’s resignation quickly became international news, with even leaders abroad commenting on the development.
“A bit of context: leadership failure and denial of antisemitism have a price,” Israel’s newly minted foreign minister, Israel Katz, wrote on X/Twitter. “Hope the glorious institution Harvard University learns from this dismal conduct.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
Tribute: Rabbi Dovid Schochet, 91, a pioneer in building Toronto’s observant community
The Jewish community in Toronto lost a towering leader when Rabbi Dovid Schochet, the president of the Toronto Rabbinical Council and the senior rabbi of the Chabad community in Toronto, passed away at the age of 91 on Jan. 28. He was born in 1932 in Basel, Switzerland, the second of 10 children, to Rabbi […]
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Attacker in 2021 Antisemitic Assault in New York Sentenced to Three Years in State Prison
The final criminal proceeding for the case of Joseph “Joey” Borgen, a Jewish man whom a gang of antisemites mauled and pepper-sprayed in broad daylight during protests and counter-protests over Israel’s 2021 war with Hamas, resulted in another conviction Wednesday.
Mohammed Said Othman, 29, was sentenced to three years in state prison, according to a press release issued by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg.
Borgen, who is Jewish, was wearing a kippah while walking in Manhattan when Said Othman, along with several other men, ambushed him without being provoked. They shouted antisemitic slurs at the pro-Israel advocate, who suffered a concussion, wrist injury, black eye, and bruises all over his body.
Since then, three other sentences have been handed down in the Borgen case. Waseem Awawdeh, who continuously struck Borgen with a crutch while allegedly joining the others in shouting antisemitic epithets at him, pleaded guilty to attempted assault as a hate crime and received 18 months in jail, as part of a plea bargain negotiated with Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Jonathon Junig.
In November, Mahmoud Musa received seven years in prison for his role in the attack. In December, Mohammed Othman was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in state prison and five additional years of post-release supervision.
As seen in footage of the incident, Othman kicked and repeatedly struck Borgen in the face while sitting on his chest to weigh him down. In court, he pleaded guilty to gang assault and third-degree hate crime assault.
“These defendants violently targeted and assaulted another individual simply because he is Jewish,” District Attorney Bragg said in a statement. “While this office always supports the right to peacefully protest and engage in open dialogue, these multi-year prison sentences makes clear that physically attacking someone because of their religion is never acceptable. I thank our hate crimes unit for its diligent work in this case.”
Throughout the criminal proceedings in his case, Joey Borgen called on New York City lawmakers to do more to eradicate antisemitic hatred in the five boroughs.
In December, he told The Algemeiner that while he is pleased with the outcome of the case he is worried that the group with which his attackers were allegedly affiliated, the extreme anti-Zionist organization Within Our Lifetime (WOL), is still engaging in antisemitic activity that could lead to more hate crimes.
Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, WOL has posted (and deleted) a map, titled “Know Your Enemies,” showing the addresses of Jewish organizations in New York City, and staged numerous disruptive protests. The group is led by Nerdeen Kiswani, a former City University of New York (CUNY) student who once threatened to set on fire someone’s Israel Defense Forces (IDF) hoodie while he was wearing it.
“They’re still causing havoc; they’re forcing Jewish attendees of a fundraiser to speak at the backdoor of a police van, and they’re bombarding the mother of a hostage with horrible antisemitic chants,” Borgen said. “While I’m happy that I got a positive result in my case, I’m still disturbed that this same group is still going around causing issues for Jewish people, attacking restaurants, and putting people in danger.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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