Harvard President Gay Resigns After Rocky Testimony, Plagiarism Allegations

WASHINGTON — Harvard President Claudine Gay said she would resign from her position on Tuesday, after her first months in the role were rocked by her congressional testimony about antisemitism on campus and allegations of plagiarism.

Gay had faced pressure to resign from Harvard’s Jewish community and some members of Congress over her comments at the Dec. 5 congressional hearing, and she has also faced several allegations of plagiarism for her academic work in recent months.  

In a letter to the Harvard community, Gay said her decision to step down had been “difficult beyond words.”

“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.”

The Harvard Corporation, the university’s 11-member governing body, said in an email to the community that its members had accepted Gay’s resignation “with sorrow.”

Gay, former University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill and Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth testified before a U.S. House of Representatives committee on Dec. 5 about a rise in antisemitism on college campuses following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in October.

The trio declined to give a definitive “yes” or “no” answer to Republican Representative Elise Stefanik’s question as to whether calling for the genocide of Jews would violate their schools’ codes of conduct regarding bullying and harassment, saying they had to balance it against free speech protections.

More than 70 U.S. lawmakers signed a letter demanding that the governing boards of the three universities remove the presidents, citing dissatisfaction with their testimony.

Magill resigned after receiving backlash for her comments.

“Harvard knows that this long overdue forced resignation of the antisemitic plagiarist president is just the beginning of what will be the greatest scandal of any college or university in history,” Representative Stefanik said in a statement on Tuesday.

Despite the controversy ensnaring Gay, the Harvard Corporation last month reaffirmed its confidence that she could lead the school through a period of high tension over the war in the Middle East. It also said an independent review of Gay’s academic work found she had not committed research misconduct. She has submitted several corrections for citation errors in recent weeks.

Gay, who became the university’s first Black president six months ago, and the members of the Harvard Corporation said in their letters to the community on Tuesday that she had been subject to racist attacks.  

Some of Gay’s critics, including billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, have argued that she was chosen for the role as part of the school’s effort to promote diversity rather than for her qualifications.

Ackman could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday. He reposted the Harvard Crimson’s story about Gay’s resignation on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

“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,” Gay said in her statement.

The Harvard Corporation wrote that she had been subjected to “deeply personal and sustained attacks” that included “racist vitriol directed at her through disgraceful emails and phone calls.”