Harvard President Claudine Gay Resigns Amid Lasting Backlash

"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."

Harvard President Testifies In House Hearing On Campus Antisemitism
Claudine Gay testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on December 05, 2023 in Washington, D.C. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Harvard University’s President Claudine Gay announced her resignation today (Jan. 2) amid growing accusations of plagiarism in her scholarly work and months of criticism for her handling of antisemitism on campus. Gay, appointed in July 2023, became the shortest-serving president in the history of Harvard since its founding in 1636.

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Gay, 53, has found herself broiled in controversy in recent months as some Harvard students and the school’s influential donors, including billionaire investors Bill Ackman and Ken Griffin, bitterly divided on the conflict between Israel and Palestine. On Dec. 5, Gay and the leaders of M.I.T. and the University of Pennsylvania testified before Congress about how they were handling antisemitism on their respective campuses in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Gay’s answers to some of the lawmakers’ questions during the hearing were seen by critics as “hesitant, formulaic, and bizarrely evasive.

“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 said in her resignation letter today.

After consultation with members of the Harvard Corporation, one of the university’s two governing boards, “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,” Gay said. She added she will return to the Harvard faculty to teach political science.

Elizabeth Magill, the president of the University of Pennsylvania who also testified in December, resigned four days after the hearing.

“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 wrote in today’s letter. “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.”

Harvard President Claudine Gay Resigns Amid Lasting Backlash