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Harvard to keep college president following House testimony

Harvard announced President Claudine Gay will stay on despite backlash to comments she provided to Congress on antisemitism.
Harvard to keep college president following House testimony
Posted at 9:17 AM, Dec 12, 2023

The Harvard Corporation announced it has confidence in Harvard President Claudine Gay, and that she will continue in her role following testimony she provided last week before Congress. 

The statement of confidence from the Fellows of Harvard College came days after University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigned. Gay, Magill and MIT President Sally Kornbluth went before the Republican-led Committee on Education and the Workforce last week on a hearing focused on how universities respond to incidents of antisemitism. 

After the hearing, the committee said it is starting a formal investigation. 

Answers given in Tuesday's hearing by the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts Institute of Technology angered some committee members, including Chair Virginia Foxx, R-North Carolina. What angered members the most was that the college presidents could not give a direct answer to whether calling for the genocide of Jews violated the schools' codes of conduct. 

SEE MORE: Harvard faculty members sign letter in support of university president

The nuanced answers appeared to anger Rep. Elise Stefanik, who asked whether someone had to actually commit genocide to be in violation of the rules.

"The testimony we received earlier this week from Presidents Gay, Magill, and Kornbluth about the responses of Harvard, UPenn, and MIT to the rampant antisemitism displayed on their campuses by students and faculty was absolutely unacceptable," Foxx said in a statement last week. "Committee members have deep concerns with their leadership and their failure to take steps to provide Jewish students the safe learning environment they are due under law."

While Penn seeks a new president, Harvard will continue operating with Gay at the helm.

Gay apologized for her comments and said in an interview with the Harvard Crimson, "I'm sorry," noting that her "words matter."

"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," said a statement from the Harvard Corporation. "So many people have suffered tremendous damage and pain because of Hamas’s brutal terrorist attack, and the University’s initial statement should have been an immediate, direct, and unequivocal condemnation. Calls for genocide are despicable and contrary to fundamental human values. President Gay has apologized for how she handled her congressional testimony and has committed to redoubling the University’s fight against antisemitism."

In late November, the Anti-Defamation League released results of a survey finding 73% of Jewish college students and 44% of non-Jewish students have experienced or witnessed antisemitism since the start of the school year. In a similar survey conducted in 2021, 32% of Jewish students said they had experienced antisemitism on college campuses. 

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