After watching their first Black president relentlessly attacked by the conservative right, it’s time the Ivy League school took some responsibility.
Dr. Claudine Gay, the first Black and second woman president of Harvard University, resigned her position on Tuesday (Jan. 2), after months of attacks from right-wing media and politicians. Her resignation is a shameful outcome of a smear campaign that exploited antisemitism to undermine her leadership and credibility. As a fellow scholar and advocate for Black people, I am outraged by how President Gay was treated and the complicity of Harvard in her downfall. I demand answers to these questions that expose the injustice and hypocrisy behind this travesty.
There are six main issues that I believe Harvard should address. And yes, I do believe they owe us an explanation.
Why would Harvard entertain a request from New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, a promoter of White nationalism, without a subpoena? Why didn’t Harvard’s legal team fight Dr. Gay’s involvement in such a partisan spectacle?
President Gay testified before Congress on antisemitism on college campuses, along with two other women presidents. Rep. Stefanik, who has a history of spreading lies and conspiracy theories, presided over the hearing. Why would Harvard allow its president to be subjected to such a hostile interrogation without a subpoena? Why didn’t Harvard’s legal team challenge the legitimacy and authority of the hearing and protect its president from being ambushed and humiliated?
Why were women the only university presidents called to testify?
Only 33 percent of college presidents in the U.S. are women, and only 28 percent are people of color. Yet, the only presidents who were summoned to testify were women, and one of them was Black. This is not a coincidence, but a deliberate attempt to target and undermine the authority and achievements of women in higher education, especially women of color. Why were no male presidents, especially White male presidents, asked to testify? Why were these three women (Gay, former Penn president Liz Magill, and MIT president Sally Kornbluth), singled out and scapegoated for a systemic and complex issue that transcends their individual campuses?
Why didn’t Harvard’s communication team properly prepare Dr. Gaye for the hearing? How could they be so negligent and irresponsible with their most valuable asset? Is it because she’s Black and a woman?