‘This is the beginning of what I believe will be the greatest scandal of any college or university ever,’ Stefanik tells the Sun.


The departure of Claudine Gay from her post as Harvard’s president marks “the tip of the iceberg” of a wider scandal rocking the university, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik tells the Sun, and the beginning of a series of tectonic changes soon to hit the nation’s oldest university.

Harvard’s provost and chief academic officer, Alan Garber, will serve as interim president until a new leader is appointed. Ms. Stefanik, a Republican representative of New York who grilled Ms. Gay during her Capitol Hill testimony last month, says that much of the damage to Harvard’s reputation has already been done. She is urging members of the university’s board to follow in Ms. Gay’s footsteps and step down.

“This is the beginning of what I believe will be the greatest scandal of any college or university ever, and our congressional investigation is going to continue apace,” Ms. Stefanik, a Harvard alumna who heads the House Republican Conference, tells the Sun on Tuesday.

Ms. Stefanik says the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s probe into Harvard will “uncover the absolute negligence and failures of the Harvard Corporation,” the university’s highest governing body. “It’s going to expose an institutional rot of antisemitism in Harvard as an institution, its failure to protect Jewish students, and its shirking of academic integrity.”

Ms. Gay’s resignation as Harvard’s 30th president marks the shortest tenure in the university’s history. The reason that its board members should now step down as well, Ms. Stefanik says, is that they “covered up her long history of plagiarism. Instead of ensuring that the president was held to the highest academic standard, they threatened to sue media outlets.”

Nearly 50 allegations of plagiarism have been leveled at Ms. Gay. Yet even as the plagiarism issue was coming to a boil, the board voted unanimously to keep Ms. Gay in her post, asserting that she was “the right leader to help our community heal and to address the very serious societal issues we are facing.”

The change in the board’s attitude comes after a 17 percent drop in early applications to the university in 2023 compared to the prior year.

“Harvard did irreparable damage to its former position as the most prestigious higher education institution in the world,” Ms. Stefanik says. “That’s not going to be rebuilt overnight.” She lauds President Larry Summers, who served at Harvard’s helm while she was a student there in 2006, as “an excellent university president.” She called it “so disgraceful how far Harvard has fallen.”

Mr. Summers, a former treasury secretary, has been an outspoken critic of the university’s response to rising antisemitism in the wake of Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attacks, but he has become mostly silent since Ms. Gay’s damning congressional testimony in early December. Ms. Stefanik told the Sun last month that the testimony would lead to “an earthquake in higher education.”

The tremors of that earthquake hit today. “After consultation with members of the Corporation,” Ms. Gay wrote in an email to members of the Harvard community shortly after the Boston Globe broke the news Tuesday, “it has become clear that it is in the best interests of Harvard for me to resign so that our community can navigate this moment of extraordinary challenge with a focus on the institution rather than any individual.”

Ms. Gay suggested that “racial animus” played a part in her ouster, adding in her statement that “it has been distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigor — two bedrock values that are fundamental to who I am.” To resign as president, she said, gives her “a heavy heart.”

The Harvard Corporation, meanwhile, put out its own statement saying that “while President Gay has acknowledged missteps and has taken responsibility for them, it is also true that she has shown remarkable resilience in the face of deeply personal and sustained attacks.” The search for the next president, the corporation said, will involve “broad engagement and consultation with the Harvard community.”

Minutes after the news made headlines, some students spoke out in support of the embattled president. “She deserved better,” a Harvard student wrote on a social media platform that offers anonymity, Sidechat. Other students, though, responded with statements such as: “so did the people she plagiarized,” “so did the Jews on campus,” and “we deserve better.”

“Two down, one to go,”  Ms. Stefanik says of the three university heads who testified before Congress in early December. The president of the University of Pennsylvania, Liz Magill, resigned just days after the hearing. It took weeks for the pressure to mount against Ms. Gay to the point where her presidency, as Ms. Stefanik puts it, became “untenable.” She is now urging the president of MIT to step down as well.


Read the article in the New York Sun here.