Claudine Gay resigned as president of Harvard University on Tuesday, following criticism of her handling of alleged antisemitism on campus and allegations of plagiarism in her prior academic work. She was the first Black woman and second woman to lead the school.
Gay’s resignation is the culmination of a legislative “attack” on teaching slavery and gender equity in higher education, Harvard history, race and public policy professor Khalil Gibran Muhammad told Boston Public Radio on Wednesday.
Muhammad's course “Race and racism in the making of the United States as a global power,” was cited by Congresswoman Virginia Foxx in her December opening statement as an example of race-based ideology that promotes antisemitism in higher education. Muhammad, who also directs the Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project at Harvard Kennedy School, noted the history of antisemitism is part of that course.
In response to Gay’s resignation, Foxx released a statement saying, in part, “While President Gay’s resignation is welcome news, the problems at Harvard are much larger than one leader and the Committee’s oversight will continue. There has been hostile takeover of postsecondary education by political activists, woke faculty, and partisan administrators.”
“That’s what this is about,” Muhammad said, adding that there will be more attempts to dismantle DEI initiatives and teaching about race and racism on college campuses.
Muhammad criticized Harvard's lack of support for Gay in the wake of her testimony before Congress. “Harvard Corporation should have stood up for her and said that she actually did what we expected her to do, which was to defend our current policies,” he said.
He added that Gay should not have resigned over the congressional testimony, and that the political attacks are “a misdirection from what is really at stake here, which is the further evisceration of any attempt to deal with the legacies and contemporary problems of structural inequality.”
As for the allegations of plagiarism in Gay's prior work, Muhammad said they are “fruit of a poisonous tree” and that they should not have resulted in her resignation. Still, he said, she should not be let off the hook completely. “She made mistakes. She was careless in some of her initial citations. But that did not rise to the level of being expelled…She did not falsify research. She did not claim other people's ideas,” he said.
The Harvard Crimson reports Harvard Provost Alan M. Garber will act as interim president, a “risk averse” decision for the institution, Muhammad said.