Obama silent on Harvard president's resignation after his attempts to rescue Gay

 January 7, 2024

Former President Barack Obama reportedly advocated for Harvard University's then-president, Claudine Gay, privately in an effort to retain her job, particularly following her congressional testimony addressing antisemitism and threats against Jewish students at Harvard.

Obama's intervention did not prevent Gay's subsequent resignation, with the former president now silent on the matter.

The controversy

After her testimony before Congress, where she faced challenges in condemning genocide against Jewish people, and amidst plagiarism allegations, Gay stepped down as Harvard's president.

The university's board supported her despite calls for her removal from donors and members of Congress.

Gay, still a faculty member, cited the best interests of Harvard and the institution's focus in navigating challenges as reasons for her resignation.

Obama's role

In late December, a confidential source revealed that Obama, a Harvard alum, lobbied privately to support Claudine Gay during the controversy surrounding antisemitism and her handling of the issue at Harvard.

Despite Obama's efforts, Gay's resignation marked the end of her tenure as the shortest presidency in Harvard's history.

Following the resignation, criticism persisted, with some highlighting the lack of an apology or acknowledgment of the university's failure to protect Jewish students from antisemitism.

Republicans speak out

The controversy also sparked a reaction from members of Congress and other observers. Notably, Representative Elise Stefanik asserted a victory in the aftermath, while Representative Jim Banks emphasized Obama's loss in this situation.

Several conservative voices, including prominent anti-diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) advocate Christopher Rufo, celebrated Claudine Gay's resignation as a perceived victory against DEI initiatives.

Rufo, known for publicizing allegations of plagiarism and antisemitism against Gay, asserted that this event marked the "beginning of the end for DEI in America's institutions."

He expressed determination to continue exposing and challenging DEI efforts until what he described as the restoration of colorblind equality in the nation.

Bill Ackman, a hedge fund billionaire and Harvard alumnus, also joined the chorus of DEI detractors, asserting on social media that Gay was unqualified for her role as president. Ackman suggested that DEI considerations played a role in her appointment. Notably, Gay had previously served as the dean of Harvard's largest division, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and held professorial roles at both Harvard and Stanford.

As the aftermath unfolds, the issues raised during Gay's presidency and congressional testimony continue, prompting discussions about the broader implications for Harvard in the future.

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