Claudine Gay has finally resigned after a horrific and destructive tenure. Where will Harvard go in its post-Gay future?
My friends joke that I write very quickly, but Claudine Gay’s resignation email to the Harvard community was followed so quickly by the official response from the Harvard Corporation that there was no way I could keep up. Gay’s resignation note is as pathetic as her tenure was: she took no responsibility for her failures, made no mention of rampant antisemitism on campus, and, of course, had to say that racism played a role in her choosing to resign. The Corporation was no better in praising a serial plagiarist and destroyer of the Harvard brand. Gay was president of Harvard for six months, or 0.13% of Harvard’s total history, but singlehandedly caused applications to drop by 17%, early acceptance candidates to look elsewhere, donors to stop giving their money, and other institutions to stop working with Harvard. Think of what else she could have destroyed had she stayed. Maybe she was really a Yale secret agent.
So, where does Harvard go from here? Penny Pritzker, Tim Barakett, and the other nine clowns on the Harvard Corporation showed no contrition in selecting such a terrible candidate as Claudine Gay. They have appointed a temporary president but ultimately must fill the job with a full-time hire. So who will it be? As Israel killed seven top Hamas leaders in Lebanon today, Harvard’s options are a little more limited than they were just yesterday. However, I am sure that the Keystone Corporation will be able to find candidates who are not serial plagiarists and have more than a dozen academic papers and no books.
Plenty of potential candidates have hundreds of such papers and have never been accused of any academic malfeasance. But what does the next president of Harvard have to look like? Does he/she/zir have to fit some profile? Harvard has had a female president (Faust) and now a black woman president. Where do you go from there? Hispanic? Full trans? Foreign? The leaders of Harvard cannot judge a person according to the content of his character, as Harvard alumnus Dr. Martin Luther King suggested. No, they need some external statement that is in keeping with the left’s obsession with color, sexual orientation, and other generally meaningless (as to job performance) qualities. Maybe they can find a Martian who missed his ride home.
But the problems Harvard faces go far beyond the physical appearance and/or sexual proclivities of the future university president. What will this new person do? Gay’s failure on campus in not stopping the rampant antisemitism was ideologically driven. She tried to hide behind the First Amendment, but as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, she was quick to punish anyone who misgendered or somehow did not toe the DEI line. She punished a senior faculty member for the mere sin of being Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer. Claudine Gay did not punish the Harvard Hamas fans because she agreed with their basic premise.
As per intersectionality theory, which is at the core of her professional being, Jews are oppressors, and Palestinians—including Hamas rapists, murderers, and kidnappers—are ultimately the oppressed. Bringing down the hammer on people she had sympathy with was simply too much to ask from Claudine Gay. There was a great deal that she could have done like ban non-students from campus genocide marches or punish anyone who threatened a Jewish student on campus. But Claudine Gay could not do it because she did not believe in punishing those she believed were in the right. The Palestinians are “brown” and are thus a wronged people, and whatever they did—raping, burning people alive, beheading babies—was justified as actions of an oppressed people.
So now the Harvard Corporation needs to find a new president before the warranty on the old one even runs out. Let’s imagine they find a real scholar with papers and books and maybe even a solid name in the profession. And let’s say that this person meets the Corporation’s external appearance fantasy of being black, Hispanic, gay, trans, and bipolar all at once. What will this person do? For the ease of reading, I’ll use “he”. Will he stop the genocide marches? Will he declare that demands for “intifada revolution” or “Palestine from the river to the sea” are calls for the mass murder of Jews and will not be tolerated on any Harvard property? Will he expel students who harm or threaten to harm Jewish and Israeli students? Will he say that Harvard, as a private entity, is not bound by the First Amendment but only by the rules promulgated by the university? Will he demand that Jews receive the same protections routinely given to blacks, homosexuals, and trans students and faculty on campus? Will he institute a zero-tolerance, one-strike-and-you-’re-out antisemitism policy at all of Harvard’s schools?
While Claudine Gay had to go, the only question was whether she would resign or if the Corporation would be forced to give her the boot; the problems at Harvard are decades in the making. The students and faculty are almost monolithically Left in political and social bearing. Any president who comes into office must deal with the fundamental problems of teaching intersectionality and being bound by a warped DEI agenda. Even if our mythical president gets antisemitism under control, the underlying ideology and equity agenda will make real change at Harvard nearly impossible. After the Supreme Court declared affirmative action illegal last year, Harvard did not look to comply but instead made it clear that it would bend application criteria to continue to accept students according to their DEI specifications.
The new president’s first job will be to get Harvard out of the headlines so that donors agree to part with their money and students again apply en masse. But the problems of Harvard were decades in the making and will take a complete overhaul of the curriculum and faculty to make it a more honest and successful school. So unless some Marvel superheroes are available for the job, don’t expect Harvard to be any better in the future. There will be a new leader, but as Pete Townsend of The Who taught, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”