Does the downfall of Harvard’s president mark the death throes of woke?
As 2024 begins, it’s hard not to notice that wokeness is a religion in decline.
The data points are all around us — whether seen in a growing awareness of the futility of transgender surgery, the hypocrisy of elite climate panic peddlers, falling support for same-sex relationships, or the dawning realisation that the cult’s high priests would sooner support Hamas terrorists than the babies they murder.
But there is no clearer sign of wokery’s demise than the resignation, on Tuesday, of Harvard head Claudine Gay, whose six-month tenure at the post made her the shortest-lived president in the university’s almost 400-year illustrious history.
Indeed, the fall of Gay may be regarded by future generations as the day woke died; an easily identified endpoint of a hapless movement that ate itself alive.
Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself — but hey, it’s nice to dream.
In any case, the events of Gay’s downfall are worthy of a brief recap.
The first major public scandal to tar her name was the widespread, boisterous support offered to Hamas by hundreds of Harvard students, seen in weeks of on-campus protests and an appalling open letter released by more than 30 student groups.
At that juncture, Gay had the choice of condemning the rampant antisemitism that had taken root under her watch, or of suddenly resurrecting Harvard’s long-abandoned commitment to free speech in time to accommodate Jew-haters everywhere.
Inexplicably, she chose the latter.
In a train-wreck testimony on Capitol Hill in December, Gay declared that calling for a genocide against the Jews was permissible at Harvard under reasonably generous conditions.
Another Ivy League bigwig who gave equally self-incrimination testimony on the same day — Liz Magill, President of the University of Pennsylvania — resigned in disgrace just a few days later.
If you can’t imagine things getting worse for Gay at that point, you need a better imagination.
Aaron Sibarium of the Washington Free Beacon, with strategic support from anti-woke crusader Christopher Rufo, launched a deep-dive investigation into allegations of plagiarism that had also been plaguing the beleaguered Harvard president.
What they found was damning, and what began as a trickle soon turned into a torrent. By the time Sibarium and Rufo were done, they had amassed nearly 50 allegations of plagiarism against Claudine Gay — some of them petty, but most of them clear-as-day violations of Harvard’s own standards of academic integrity.
Such a serial plagiariser was Gay, it turns out, that over half of her published works as an academic had been implicated in the scandal. She was even found to have committed plagiarism on the acknowledgments page of her dissertation.
All the while, the corporate media was shilling hard for their avatar of diversity, calling Gay’s plagiarism “duplicative language” and “quotations without quotation marks” — any euphemism that would stick; anything but what it was.
All the while, race hustlers blamed the rest of us for noticing, claiming our criticism of Harvard’s head was driven by racism (yawn) and not Gay’s many, obvious, very public failings.
All the while, the Harvard Corporation — which had quite evidently hired Gay for her gender and race and not her academic merit — dug deeper and deeper in futile defence of their president, claiming to have already investigated her wrongdoings and found her not culpable.
(Of course, the New York Post soon reported that Harvard’s leadership had secretly sent their office a threatening legal letter to squash further investigations into Gay’s plagiarism).
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If all that were not enough, when Gay finally offered her letter of resignation, she issued zero apologies to the academics whose ideas she had pilfered, made more than three dozen references to herself, and castigated her critics for their “racial animus”.
This is Claudine Gay's resignation letter. Rather than take responsibility for minimizing antisemitism, committing serial plagiarism, intimidating the free press, and damaging the institution, she calls her critics racist. This is the poison of DEI ideology. Glad she's gone. pic.twitter.com/WlqMKLn6pA— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) January 2, 2024
On brand, the Harvard Corporation likewise accused Gay’s critics of racism rather than owning the disaster they had orchestrated.
Summarising the whole sordid affair, Harvard alum and billionaire Bill Ackman — who helped spearhead the campaign for reform at the university — has warned:
“Claudine Gay’s ouster won’t change things. The college needs a complete overhaul, starting with a resignation of the board and the removal of DEI from every corner of the institution.”
Ackman is right. In the best interests of Harvard and American higher learning more generally, true reform would mean a complete flush-out of the entire leadership group that defended Claudine Gay and the university’s inglorious descent into DEI madness.
Bull in a china shop that he is, Christopher Rufo has cheekily offered his services to “join the [Harvard] Corporation to help turn it around.” Rufo’s offer makes sense: he has already helped oversee some not insignificant victories in Florida’s university system.
Quietly, I’d love to see Rufo join the Harvard Corporation — and watch as the whole rotten structure is renewed from the inside out.
Maybe it’s too much to ask. But hey, it’s nice to dream.
Kurt Mahlburg is a writer and author, and an emerging Australian voice on culture and the Christian faith. He has a passion for both the philosophical and the personal, drawing on his background as a graduate architect, a primary school teacher, a missionary, and a young adult pastor.
Image credits: screenshot CBS News
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