Updated Jan 2, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Republicans take victory lap after Harvard president resigns

House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Republican lawmakers on Tuesday celebrated Harvard President Claudine Gay's resignation as a victory for the House GOP's investigations and their efforts to combat alleged antisemitism on college campuses.

Why it matters: The series of scandals that led Gay to step down was precipitated by widely criticized congressional testimony she and other university presidents gave last month about antisemitism on their campuses.

  • University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigned in the immediate aftermath, but MIT President Sally Kornbluth appears secure in her role.
  • In addition to backlash over her testimony, Gay also faced accusations of plagiarism in her academic work.

What they're saying: Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), the House Republican Conference chair whose questioning of the college presidents at last month's Education and Workforce Committee hearing went viral, said in a statement, "I will always deliver results."

  • "Her answers were absolutely pathetic and devoid of the moral leadership and academic integrity required of the President of Harvard," Stefanik, a Harvard alum, continued.
  • Several Republican lawmakers signaled they want to see Kornbluth go next, posting on the social media site X: "Two down, one to go."
  • "Claudine Gay sat silent when I asked her what actions were being taken to combat antisemitism at Harvard," said Rep. John James (R-Mich.), another Education and Workforce Committee member.

Between the lines: "What a tortured way to go … she should have resigned immediately after those answers. Her own pride has left her in an even worse position," said one House Republican.

  • The GOP lawmaker said the the result of the Education and Workforce hearing was "delayed but not denied."

The intrigue: The celebration had a tinge of bipartisanship, with Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) touting the resolution he and Stefanik introduced calling on Gay and Kornbluth to resign.

  • Some lawmakers lamented that accusations of plagiarism, rather than the hearing, prompted Gay to step down. "Plagiarism is not tolerated in colleges. Antisemitism is," one House Democrat told Axios.

The other side: Harvard condemned the "sustained attacks" against Gay in a statement while noting that her resignation had been accepted "with sorrow."

  • In her resignation letter, Gay wrote: "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."

What's next: Republicans on the Education and Workforce Committee are continuing to investigate antisemitism at elite colleges. "This is just the beginning of what will be the greatest scandal of any college or university in history," said Stefanik, who is leading the probe.

  • "Our robust Congressional investigation will continue to move forward to expose the rot in our most 'prestigious' higher education institutions and deliver accountability to the American people," she said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional comment.

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