University of Pennsylvania Resignation
The Harvard Corporation is currently considering whether to make a public statement in support of President Lawrence S. Gay. This comes after the recent resignation of the University of Pennsylvania’s president, who testified alongside Gay at a House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing last week.
Contrasting Responses from MIT and Harvard
In stark contrast to the University of Pennsylvania, MIT’s executive committee quickly expressed “full and unreserved support” for their president, Sally Kornbluth. They praised her outstanding leadership and ability to unite the community around the institution’s core values.
Faculty Members Urge Harvard to Defend Independence
Following these developments, a letter with 511 signatures from Harvard faculty members has been sent to the Harvard Corporation. The letter urges the university to defend its independence and resist political pressures that undermine Harvard’s commitment to academic freedom. It also emphasizes the importance of protecting a culture of free inquiry within the diverse community.
Harvard Faculty Express Concerns
History professor Maya R. Jasanoff, one of the organizers of the letter, stated that the “soundbites” from the congressional hearing distorted Gay’s message. Jasanoff attributed the blame to the House committee leadership, questioning their intentions.
Contentious Exchange During Hearing
During the hearing, a tense exchange occurred between Gay and House GOP Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik. Stefanik demanded a yes or no answer as to whether calling for the genocide of Jews violated Harvard’s code of conduct. Gay responded that it depends on the context. Stefanik argued that the answer should be a straightforward yes, criticizing Gay’s response as unacceptable.
Call for Resignation and Counterarguments
Gay’s hesitant response during the hearing led to calls for her resignation. A bipartisan letter was sent to the governing boards of Harvard, MIT, and UPenn, demanding the removal of the presidents of all three institutions. Additionally, billionaire philanthropist X sent a letter to the Harvard governing boards, accusing Gay of catalyzing an explosion of antisemitism and hate on campus.
Faculty Split and Alumni Involvement
The Harvard faculty is divided on the issue, with some signing the letter in defense of Gay and others expressing concerns about the handling of antisemitism and Islamophobia. Some argue that decisions on university leadership should not be made by alumni or politicians.
Impact on Donations and Resignation
Gay’s actions have reportedly led to the withdrawal of significant donations to Harvard, including from influential Jewish donors. Furthermore, Rabbi David Wolpe announced his departure from Harvard’s antisemitism advisory committee, citing the university’s failure to address Jewish suffering and the denial of Israel’s self-determination.
The controversy surrounding President Lawrence S. Gay continues to unfold, with Harvard faculty members and alumni expressing divergent opinions. The Harvard Corporation faces the decision of whether to publicly support Gay amidst calls for her resignation and concerns about the handling of antisemitism and free inquiry on campus.