Harvard’s first Black President, Claudine Gay, resigned Tuesday afternoon after claims of plagiarism and backlash from a congressional hearing. During the hearing, she discussed the university’s code of conduct policy about hate speech centered around Jews.
In her resignation letter, Gay said it was an honor to hold the position and seemed saddened by the decision.
“It is a singular honor to be a member of this university, which has been my home and my inspiration for most of my professional career, Gay wrote. “My deep sense of connection to Harvard and its people has made it all the more painful to witness the tensions and divisions that have riven our community in recent months, weakening the bonds of trust and reciprocity that should be our sources of strength and support in times of crisis.”
Gay also talked about the stress of her character being attacked, citing “racial animus” during her tenure as President.
“Amidst all of this, it has been distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigor—two bedrock values that are fundamental to who I am—and frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus,” she wrote.
Rev. Al Sharpton, Founder and President of the National Action Network condemned the attacks on Gay and pushed back against hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman, who called on her to resign, calling her a DEI hire.
“President Gay’s resignation is about more than a person or a single incident. This is an attack on every Black woman in this country who’s put a crack in the glass ceiling, said Sharpton. “It’s an assault on the health, strength, and future of diversity, equity, and inclusion – at a time when Corporate America is trying to back out of billions of dollars in commitments. Most of all, this was the result of Bill Ackman’s relentless campaign against President Gay, not because of her leadership or credentials but because he felt she was a DEI hire.”
Sharpton also announced a picket outside Ackman’s office on Thursday to protest his campaign against Gay.
“The National Action Network will show Ackman that his attacks on DEI, President Gay, and Black Americans have consequences, said Sharpton.
“This Thursday, our team will picket outside of his office so New Yorkers, his investors, and Corporate America can see Bill Ackman for who he is. If he doesn’t think Black Americans belong in the C-Suite, the Ivy League, or any other hallowed halls, we’ll make ourselves at home outside his office.”
The university appointed her as a Wilbur A. Cowett Professor of Government in 2015 and she served as Dean of Social Science from then until 2018.
Gay has also worked closely with Harvard’s previous president, Lawrence S. Bacow, for the past five years.
According to The Harvard Gazette, Dr. Alan Garber, Harvard’s chief academic officer, will serve as interim president.
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