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2 Jan, 2024 19:35

Harvard's first black president resigns amid plagiarism scandal

Claudine Gay accused her opponents of racism as she stepped down
Harvard's first black president resigns amid plagiarism scandal

Claudine Gay announced in a statement on Tuesday that she has resigned from her post as Harvard University’s president. Gay’s tenure was the shortest in the prestigious institution’s history, and ended with almost 50 accusations of academic theft.

Gay was Harvard’s first black president. Having served only six months and one day, her presidency was the shortest in the university’s 388-year history.

In her resignation letter, she did not admit any wrongdoing, and instead accused her opponents of subjecting her to “personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus.”

Over the last six weeks, Gay has been accused of almost 50 instances of plagiarism throughout her academic career. The scandal kicked off when conservative activist Chris Rufo discovered evidence that Gay had lifted material verbatim from other scholars for her 1997 dissertation, titled ‘Taking Charge: Black Electoral Success and the Redefinition of American Policies’.

“It is with a heavy heart but a deep love for Harvard that I write to share that I will be stepping down as president,” Gay wrote. “After consultation with members of the Corporation, it has become clear that it is in the best interests of Harvard for me to resign,” she added, referring to the university’s governing body.

Conservative pundits had ridiculed Gay as a “diversity hire,” and accused her of building a “diversity empire” on campus using the university’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) office to denigrate white students, rename buildings which were named after white men, and push so-called ‘critical race theory’ workshops and seminars.

However, it was Gay’s defense of anti-Israel speech on campus before the US Congress in early December that first put her in the crosshairs of pro-Israel liberals and conservatives alike. Among this group are Democratic Party and Harvard donor Bill Ackman. Ackman claimed that Gay had been hired based on race and gender criteria set by Harvard’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion office, and boosted the subsequent plagiarism allegations in a bid to oust the embattled president.

An internal Harvard investigation found four “instances of inadequate citation,” but the Ivy League university stopped short of using the term “plagiarism” and cleared her of “research misconduct” in mid-December. However, critics claimed that the review was rushed, and new allegations of plagiarism were made against Gay as recently as Monday.

Shortly after her resignation letter was published, Rufo took to X (formerly Twitter) to promise further action. “This is the beginning of the end for DEI in America's institutions,” he wrote. “We will expose you. We will outmaneuver you. And we will not stop fighting until we have restored colorblind equality in our great nation.”

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