‘Redoubling the university’s fight against antisemitism’

In its statement, the Harvard Corporation acknowledged Gay’s missteps during the testimony and noted her apology.

“So many people have suffered tremendous damage and pain because of Hamas’s brutal terrorist attack, and the University’s initial statement should have been an immediate, direct, and unequivocal condemnation. Calls for genocide are despicable and contrary to fundamental human values,” the statement continued. “President Gay has apologized for how she handled her congressional testimony and has committed to redoubling the University’s fight against antisemitism.”

Her fate differs from that of another president who faced congressional questions: On Saturday, University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, who appeared alongside Gay and Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth, resigned after a similar critique.

Harvard President Claudine Gay, left, speaks as University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill listens, during a hearing of the House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill in early December.

Despite the furor, Gay drew petitions in support of her presidency, including one by 700 faculty and another by Black faculty. Gay is Harvard’s first Black president and began the role earlier this year. And Harvard’s most prominent alumni group unanimously backed Gay in a letter sent to the university’s governing boards on Monday, according to a copy of the letter provided by the university to USA TODAY.

“The suggestion that she would not stand boldly against manifestations of antisemitism and any suggestion that her selection as president was the result of a process that elevated an unqualified person based on considerations of race and gender are specious and politically motivated,” the petition by Black faculty reads.

Harvard, MIT, Penn under a microscope:Pressure mounts on Ivy League universities to address antisemitism after presidents testify

Concerns raised about integrity of Gay’s work, thesis

The Harvard board also addressed recent accusations about Gay’s dissertation. Gay earned her doctorate from Harvard and joined the faculty in 2006 as a professor of government, before becoming a dean. 

The board said it learned in late October of concerns regarding three articles Gay published and at her request launched an independent review of her published work. The review found “a few instances of inadequate citation.”

“While the analysis found no violation of Harvard’s standards for research misconduct, President Gay is proactively requesting four corrections in two articles to insert citations and quotation marks that were omitted from the original publications,” the board statement Tuesday said.

Stefanik, in a post on X reacting to Gay retaining her post, excoriated Gay. 

“There have been absolutely no updates to @Harvard’s code of conduct to condemn the calls for genocide of Jews and protect Jewish students on campus,” Stefanik wrote. “The only update to Harvard’s code of conduct is to allow plagiarists as president.”

What’s different about Harvard and Penn?

Harvard and Penn, though both members of the Ivy League athletic conference, have significantly different financial resources, and therefore different relationships with – and reliance upon – their alumni. Harvard, for instance, is the wealthiest university in the U.S., with a roughly $50 billion endowment. Penn, on the other hand, has an endowment less than half that size.

And their population of Jewish students is different, too. According to the most recent estimates from the Jewish student group Hillel, the amount of Jewish undergraduates at Harvard is less than half of the number enrolled at Penn.

Professors, free speech advocates condemn Magill’s exit

Magill’s resignation on Saturday, and the ensuing calls for the other presidents to step aside, alarmed a number of professors and free speech advocates, who decried what they saw as a frightening precedent.

“I can’t shake the feeling that this could embolden new political or donor led campaigns to exert undue control over universities,” wrote Jonathan Friedman, the director of free expression and education programs at the free speech organization PEN America, on X.  

The Penn chapter of the American Association of University Professors, a prominent national faculty group, wrote in a statement on Saturday responding to Magill’s resignation that donors, lobbyists and politicians had successfully waged a campaign to “destabilize” the school.

“These distortions and attacks on our colleagues have not addressed the scourge of antisemitism − a real and grave problem, they wrote. “Instead, they have threatened the ability of faculty and students to research, teach, study, and publicly discuss the history, politics, and cultures of Israel and Palestine.”

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