In 2023, Claudine Gay was announced as the 30th President of Harvard University, making her the first Black person and the second woman to lead the Ivy League school in its 388-year history.
She replaced Lawrence Bacow, who stepped down to spend more time with his family. She was elected to the presidency by the Harvard Corporation, the University’s principal governing board, with the consent of the University’s Board of Overseers, The Harvard Gazette reported.
Gay was recruited by Harvard in 2006 as a professor of government. She was also appointed a professor of African and African American Studies in 2007. In 2015, she was named the Wilbur A. Cowett Professor of Government when she also became dean of social science at FAS.
Fast forward to 2024, Gay has stepped down as president of Harvard University after just six months in office. Her tenure at the university is the shortest in the history of the university.
The move follows allegations of plagiarism and a backlash over what was described as an inadequate response to campus anti-Semitism, according to Aljazeera.
Gay cited personal attacks “fuelled by racial animus” in her resignation letter. “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,” Gay wrote in her resignation letter on Tuesday.
According to her, it had been “painful to witness the tensions and divisions that have riven our community in recent months rising at Harvard” and “distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigour”.
Her resignation comes on the heels of mounting pressure for her to step down after a congressional hearing about anti-Semitism on university campuses on December 4 following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war. There have been several protests and counterprotests on college campuses following the October 7 terror attacks by Hamas against Israel.
Gay, while testifying before a U.S. House of Representatives committee about the rise of antisemitism on campuses, did not directly answer a question from Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik on whether calls on campus for the genocide of Jews would violate the schools’ codes of conduct. Following the hearing, multiple allegations of plagiarism surfaced regarding Gay’s previous academic work.
Gay received her bachelor’s degree in economics from Stanford University in California in 1992. She got her doctorate in government in 1998 from Harvard, where she won the Toppan Prize for the best dissertation in political science. Gay served as an assistant professor and then a tenured associate professor at Stanford before joining Harvard in 2006.
Alan M. Garber, who currently serves as provost and chief academic officer at Harvard, will step in as interim president until Harvard finds a new leader.