ACTA in the News | Governance

Harvard Corporation members should resign in wake of Gay fiasco, watchdogs say

‘Unless the board itself undergoes a revolution, nothing at Harvard will change’
THE COLLEGE FIX   |  January 3, 2024 by Jennifer Kabbany

Members of the Harvard Corporation must also resign, say a growing chorus of observers and watchdogs just hours after news broke Tuesday that President Claudine Gay was stepping down in disgrace amid plagiarism and antisemitism scandals.

Gay announced Tuesday she would resign as president after only five months on the job and return to teaching at the Ivy League institution, blaming in part “racial animus” for her decision in a statement that ignored controversies that engulfed her presidency over the last three months.

Harvard’s first black, female president resigned after shrugging off the deadly terrorist attacks that targeted Israeli civilians Oct. 7 and the rabid antisemitism on campus that followed, then telling a congressional committee in December that calls to annihilate the Jews do not necessarily violate Harvard’s codes of conduct.

In recent weeks it came to light that Gay’s scholarly work contains dozens of instances of plagiarism, and what’s more, the Harvard Corporation, the 13-member board in charge of the nation’s most prestigious institution, was likely complicit as university brass tried to cover it up by threatening the New York Post with a defamation lawsuit and claiming an investigation found the plagiarism did not amount to academic misconduct.

The months of controversy has cost Harvard a parade of billion-dollar donors who have pledged to stop giving money to the scandal-plagued school.

That fact has not gone unnoticed by observers and watchdogs who say members of the corporation are ultimately responsible for the entire affair, first for hiring Gay despite her mediocrity to advance a left-wing agenda and then for allowing an attempt to cover up her shoddy research and scholarly dishonesty, which in late December after everything came to light prompted a congressional probe.

“The Harvard Corporation that so recently appointed her president should resign,” famed civil liberties attorney and Harvard alumnus Harvey Silverglate told The College Fix on Tuesday. He called the entire situation a “disaster” and said he will continue his efforts to be elected to the Harvard Board of Overseers to clean house.

“Claudine Gay’s problem was that she was never suited to be president of Harvard,” Silverglate said via email. “Her career has been mainly that of an academic bureaucrat. She famously devised programs to inculcate students and even faculty members in the mantra of ‘diversity, equity and inclusion,’ in which students would look different but think alike.”

Silverglate isn’t the only one who argues the buck stops with the Harvard Corporation, which the New York Times reports is a cadre of rich and influential progressives, mostly wealthy business owners, attorneys and philanthropists.

“There is no indication from either the Gay resignation letter or the Harvard Corporation follow-up that the university is moving away from identity-based scholarship, hiring, and admissions,” wrote scholar Heather Mac Donald for the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. 

“…If the Harvard Corporation had learned anything from the Gay debacle, it would have left out that coded rhetoric of ‘inclusiveness.’ Unless the board itself undergoes a revolution, nothing at Harvard will change,” Mac Donald wrote.

University of Tennessee College of Law Professor Glenn Reynolds, on his personal Substack, wrote Tuesday that “Next to go should be Penny Pritzker, senior fellow (essentially chair of the board) of the Harvard Corporation.”

“The fellows of the Harvard Corporation hire the president,” Reynolds wrote. “Pritzker had a responsibility to learn if Claudine Gay had a history of plagiarism, and if she had the personal and intellectual qualities to lead a top university. (The answer to both questions is now clearly ‘no.’)”

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni also weighed in, arguing in a statement posted Tuesday on X that the “whole sordid episode is not really about Gay and it isn’t over because she has stepped down; it is about the misguided governance at Harvard, the trustees who put her in this untenable position, thinking that they were inoculated against any scrutiny and criticism because … Harvard.”

“They have a lot to answer for.”

Billionaire businessman and Harvard alumnus Bill Ackman agrees, writing on X in a lengthy statement Jan. 2 that Harvard’s embrace of DEI is behind the mess and the board needs to be completely revamped.

“The Board Chair, Penny Pritzker, should resign along with the other members of the board who led the campaign to keep Claudine Gay, orchestrated the strategy to threaten the media, bypassed the process for evaluating plagiarism, and otherwise greatly contributed to the damage that has been done,” wrote Ackman, one of the wealthy donors who yanked support early on.

“…The new board members should be chosen in a transparent process with the assistance of the 30-person Board of Overseers. There is no reason the Harvard board of 12 independent trustees cannot be comprised of the most impressive, high integrity, intellectually and politically diverse members of our country and globe.”

This post appeared on The College Fix on January 3, 2024.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

Discover More