Dec 11, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Claudine Gay gets show of support from Harvard Alumni Association, faculty

Claudine Gay during a House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing in Washington, DC, on Dec. 5. Photo: Haiyun Jiang/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Executive Committee of Harvard University's Alumni Association on Monday gave its support for Harvard President Claudine Gay's leadership amid backlash to her congressional testimony on antisemitism.

Driving the news: The committee "unanimously and unequivocally supports" Gay and has "full confidence in her leadership during this difficult time," the letter to university officials, which was shared with Axios, states.

  • The letter comes after approximately 700 Harvard faculty members signed a petition over the weekend asking school administrators not to cede to calls to fire Gay.
  • "We, the undersigned faculty, urge you in the strong possible terms to defend the independence of the university and to resist political pressures that are at odds with Harvard's commitment to academic freedom, including calls for the removal of President Claudine Gay," the letter obtained by NBC News states.

The big picture: Gay and MIT President Sally Kornbluth have faced significant backlash for their responses to questioning from Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) during their congressional testimony last week.

  • Former University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, who also participated in the hearing, resigned from her position over the weekend.
  • Gay apologized last week for failing to more strongly denounce threats of antisemitic violence during the testimony.

What they're saying: "President Gay stood behind and beside our students and made clear to the world that their safety is Harvard's number one priority," the alumni committee wrote.

  • "We applaud her for protecting academic freedom and the right of all students to voice their opinions," the letter continues. "And we appreciate and endorse President Gay's condemnation of both speech that harasses or bullies members of the University community and speech that can be interpreted as calls for genocide."
  • The committee went on to say they recognized the "disappointment" regarding her testimony, but that Gay has "apologized for any pain her testimony caused–a powerful demonstration of her integrity, determination, and courage."
  • "There is much work to be done to address the hatreds on campus and in our society," the committee wrote." We are confident President Gay will address antisemitism, and other forms of hate, effectively and courageously."

The other side: Pershing Square Capital Management's Bill Ackman, a Harvard alum, issued his own letter to university officials saying Gay "has done more damage to the reputation" of the school than anyone in history.

  • "In light of Harvard's leadership position, President Gay's mishandling of October 7th and its aftermath on campus have led to the metastasis of antisemitism to other universities and institutions around the world," he wrote.

Read the full letter from the Executive Committee of Harvard's Alumni Association below.

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