Claudine Gay Should Have Remained President of Harvard, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey Says

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Claudine Gay should have stayed on as president of Harvard University instead of resigning last week, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey said Tuesday.

Healey made the comment during an appearance on Boston Public Radio on WGBH on Tuesday, January 9.

Gay was forced out January 2, after six months on the job.

Co-host Margery Eagan asked Healey (at 38:42 of the audio recording) if Gay needed to resign given Gay’s responses to questions about anti-Semitism on campus and accusations that she committed plagiarism in her doctoral dissertation and in two published academic journal articles.

“I think that Claudine Gay addressed those. I thought that the corporation had addressed those. I thought she could continue to lead the university,” Healey said.

Healey was referring to the Harvard Corporation, the smaller of two governing boards of Harvard University, which released a statement expressing support for Gay on December 12, 2023, three weeks before she quit.

Earlier in the interview on Tuesday, Healey said of Gay:  “Well, I was disappointed to see her step down. I was disappointed in the process. I was disappointed in the whole way all of this unfolded.”

Gay, who took office July 1, 2023, drew withering criticism for what critics described as the university’s tepid response to Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7 and ensuing high tensions on campus between Palestinians and Jews, including encounters during demonstrations. (New Boston Post has published a timeline of Gay’s troubles as president of Harvard.)

On December 5, Gay and the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology appeared before a Republican-led committee of the U.S. House of Representatives to answer questions about rising anti-Semitism on their campuses.

Asked by U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik (R-New York) if calling for genocide against Jews “violates Harvard’s code of conduct,” Gay responded:  “It depends on the context.”

Gay later apologized for her comments and issued a statement saying that “Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community … have no place at Harvard.”

On Tuesday, January 9, Healey said Gay and the other two college presidents spoke poorly during the congressional hearing.

“We can talk about the hearing. I think that Claudine Gay and the other presidents have rightly apologized for some of the comments that they made that were very lawyerly in a response and really missed the moment in terms of where we need to be. Because it’s absolutely clear we need to denounce genocide and denounce anti-Semitism and denounce Islamophobia. And we need to make sure that students are safe on campus,” Healey said.

But Healey criticized Stefanik and other conservatives who are criticizing colleges and universities, saying:  “… we’ve got to realize and recognize the broader context of what’s happening here.”

The governor called the actions of Stefanik and other conservatives part of “a systematic effort right now by some on the far right to go after higher education right now.”

“This is a problem, because, you know, we have to be strong about our academic institutions,” Healey said.

Sone Republicans have called for taxing the endowments of wealthy universities.

Healey, a Democrat, also criticized Stefanik for supporting former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner in the 2024 Republican presidential primaries, calling her a 2020 “election denier” and accusing her of “hypocrisy.”

“I mean the idea that the likes of someone like Elise Stefanik is going to call into question, you know, higher education or the value of higher education in this country really galls me,” Healey said.

Both women are graduates of Harvard College. Healey, 52, graduated in 1992. Stefanik, 39, graduated in 2006.

Healey addressed the former Harvard president’s resignation starting at 36:16 of the audio recording of Boston Public Radio on Tuesday, January 9, 2024.


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