December 12th, 2023
By Danielle Wallace
House GOP Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., slammed Harvard’s decision Tuesday to stand behind Harvard President Claudine Gay despite her testifying last week at a congressional hearing that calls on campus for the genocide of Jews require “context” before they would violate the school’s code of conduct.
Taking a point of personal privilege at the top of the House Republican Conference press conference, Stefanik ripped the “complete moral failure” of Harvard’s leadership, saying that in allowing Gay to remain as president, the “only update to the code of conduct” that the Ivy League school has made after the hearing, “is to allow a plagiarist as the president of Harvard.”
“There is a reason why the testimony at the Education Workforce Committee garnered 1 billion views worldwide, and it’s because those university presidents made history by putting the most morally bankrupt testimony into the Congressional Record, and the world saw it,” Stefanik said Tuesday. “As a Harvard graduate, I’m reminded of Harvard’s motto, Veritas, which goes back – and it’s older than the founding of our country, it goes back to the 1640s. In addition, the motto was Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae – Truth for Christ and the Church.”
“Larry Summers, who was president of Harvard when I was an undergrad, talked about the meaning of Veritas is divine truth, moral truth. Let me be clear. Veritas does not depend on the context,” Stefanik said. “This is a moral failure of Harvard’s leadership and higher education leadership at the highest levels, and the only change they have made to their code of conduct, where they failed to condemn calls for genocide of the Jewish people, the only update to the code of conduct is to allow a plagiarist as the president of Harvard.”
Harvard’s board went through extensive deliberations over the weekend and into Monday regarding calls from 74 House members from both sides of the aisle demanding Gay, as well as the presidents of MIT and UPenn, be removed. More than 500 Harvard faculty members, however, had written the board demanding the university support Gay and “defend the independence of the university and to resist political pressures that are at odds with Harvard’s commitment to academic freedom.”
Billionaire Harvard alum Bill Ackman also sent a letter demanding Gay’s ouster, claiming her “failure to condemn the most vile and barbaric terrorism the world has ever seen” following Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel resulted in the university losing billions in donations.
Ackman, a hedge fund manager, later said Harvard resisted removing Gay to avoid the perception they were “kowtowing” to him.
Earlier Tuesday, the Harvard Corporation reaffirmed their support Gay as the “right leader to help our community heal and to address the very serious societal issues we are facing.”
“In this tumultuous and difficult time, we unanimously stand in support of President Gay,” the Fellows of Harvard Corporation wrote. “At Harvard, we champion open discourse and academic freedom, and we are united in our strong belief that calls for violence against our students and disruptions of the classroom experience will not be tolerated. Harvard’s mission is advancing knowledge, research, and discovery that will help address deep societal issues and promote constructive discourse, and we are confident that President Gay will lead Harvard forward toward accomplishing this vital work.”
The Corporation also addressed Gay’s academic writings, saying the university “became aware in late October of allegations regarding three articles.”
“At President Gay’s request, the Fellows promptly initiated an independent review by distinguished political scientists and conducted a review of her published work,” the Harvard Corporation said. “On December 9, the Fellows reviewed the results, which revealed a few instances of inadequate citation. While the analysis found no violation of Harvard’s standards for research misconduct, President Gay is proactively requesting four corrections in two articles to insert citations and quotation marks that were omitted from the original publications.”
Amid intense criticism, UPenn President Liz Magill resigned on Saturday.
By contrast, just two days after the fiery hearing, MIT’s executive committee had pledged “full and unreserved support” for MIT President Sally Kornbluth, issuing a statement that championed “her outstanding academic leadership, her judgment, her integrity, her moral compass, and her ability to unite our community around MIT’s core values.”