Harvard Stands by President After Backlash Over Anti-Semitism Testimony

Claudine Gay (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
December 12, 2023

Harvard University's governing board declared its support for the Ivy League school's president on Tuesday, a day after meeting to weigh the public backlash following remarks she made at last week's congressional hearing on anti-Semitism.

The Harvard Corporation, the university's governing body, in a statement said it had reaffirmed its support for Harvard president Claudine Gay's continued leadership.

"Our extensive deliberations affirm our confidence that President Gay is the right leader to help our community heal and to address the very serious societal issues we are facing," the 11-member board wrote.

The statement comes after Gay faced backlash last week when she and other university leaders testified that calls for the genocide of Jews would not necessarily violate school codes of conduct.

The board's decision was first reported by the Harvard Crimson. A representative for Harvard on Monday did not respond to a request for comment on the board's reported meeting.

Some donors, alumni, and members of Congress called for Gay to resign, as her fellow Ivy League president at University of Pennsylvania, Liz Magill, did over the weekend. But many faculty and other alumni have rushed to defend Gay and asked the governing body to do the same.

The House of Representatives hearing last week increased public outcry over how U.S. colleges are handling campus protests since Hamas's Oct. 7 attack on Israel after three university presidents declined to answer "yes" or "no" when asked if calling for the genocide of Jews would violate school codes of conduct regarding bullying and harassment.

Gay, Magill, and Sally Kornbluth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told lawmakers context was important and they had to take free speech into consideration. Gay later apologized for her remarks in an interview with Harvard's student newspaper.

Jewish communities have said universities are tolerating anti-Semitism. Pro-Palestinian groups have accused the schools of being neutral or antagonistic toward their cause.

(Writing by Susan Heavey; editing by Doina Chiacu)

Published under: Anti-Semitism , Harvard