Students walk by the Harvard Yard gate in Cambridge, MA, Sep. 16, 2021. (David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Editorial: A welcome resignation at Harvard

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Editorial: A welcome resignation at Harvard

Students walk by the Harvard Yard gate in Cambridge, MA, Sep. 16, 2021. (David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Following plagiarism allegations and criticism about her interpretation of antisemitism and her overall actions since the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre against Israel, Claudine Gay has resigned as Harvard’s president.

For most Americans, Harvard is some kind of a foggy fantasy where the perception of privilege and elitism merge together in a well-groomed American Dream. It is a closed club that accepted just 3.41 percent of applicants to its Class of 2027. Compare that to the rest of America, where 70 percent of all applicants are accepted.

But it’s much more than a club for future international leaders, billionaires and business captains of the world. It’s a huge business and its $50 billion endowment is considered the largest academic fund in the world. According to the Harvard College Open Data Project, it owns 10 percent of the land in Cambridge, 6 percent in Allston, and .27 percent in the rest of Boston.

It ranks as one of the most powerful institutions in the world, and its ideology and actions are felt way beyond Harvard Square – from the boardrooms of America’s largest law firms and corporations to Congress and the Oval Office, to gilded monarchies and prime ministers’ offices throughout the world.

By all accounts, Gay had a quick ascension to president in her 16 years at Harvard. A professor of government and African and African American Studies, she earned her Ph.D. from Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1998. At the time, she was awarded the Government Department’s Toppan Prize for best dissertation in political science. But late last year, Harvard began to review allegations that Gay had not attributed part of her 1997 doctoral dissertation to other scholars.

Plagiarists in the academic world are often shown the door quickly; the same is true in the field of print journalism. But that was not her only problem. In the last few months it has become clear that Harvard is out of touch with much of the rest of America and American Jews.

On Oct. 7 – as Hamas terrorists were still butchering some 1,300 Israelis – more than 30 pro-Palestinian Harvard student groups issued a statement that began, “We, the undersigned student organizations, hold the Israeli regime responsible for all unfolding violence. Today’s events did not occur in a vacuum. For the last two decades, millions of Palestinians have been forced to live in an open-air prison.”

It took three days – and the prompting of former Harvard President Larry Summers, who called out Harvard’s silence on social media. On Oct. 10, he wrote: “Why can’t we give reassurance that the University stands squarely against Hamas terror to frightened students when 35 groups of their fellow students appear to be blaming all the violence on Israel?” That same day, Gay wrote: “As the events of recent days continue to reverberate, let there be no doubt that I condemn the terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Hamas. Such inhumanity is abhorrent, whatever one’s individual views of the origins of longstanding conflicts in the region. Let me also state, on this matter as on others, that while our students have the right to speak for themselves, no student group – not even 30 student groups – speaks for Harvard University or its leadership.”

But last month, some were aghast when Gay testified before Congress. When asked a yes or no question by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) if calling for the genocide of Jews violated Harvard’s Student Code of Conduct, Gay replied with a vague, legalese answer. “It can be, depending on the context,” she said.

We welcome Gay’s resignation, and the appointment of Dr. Alan Garber as interim president. We hope that in the coming days, Harvard will begin an assessment of its policies of looking the other way when students exhibit hate and intimidation on campus. Θ

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