Harvard sides with its woke president — and plots its own demise
Earlier this year, Mercator reported on the dire state of free speech at Harvard University; the leading Ivy League school came dead last out of more than 250 colleges in America, scoring 0.0 out of a possible 100 points on FIRE’s 2023 College Free Speech Rankings.
A month later, the findings in that report were made manifest in spectacular fashion when some 34 student groups at Harvard voiced their support for Hamas, just days after the terrorist group invaded Israel to unleash the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust.
As the weeks marched on and antisemitic demonstrations gained steam in Cambridge, the situation grew so dire that Harvard’s president Claudine Gay was hauled to Washington DC before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, together with the heads of several other high-profile colleges.
In a truly jaw-dropping testimony, when asked if “calling for the genocide of Jews violate[s] Harvard’s rules regarding bullying or harassment,” Dr. Gay replied, “It can be, depending on the context.”
Only after repeated grilling from Rep. Elise Stefanik, and Gay’s generous supply of caveats like “[when] targeted at an individual” and “when it crosses into conduct,” did the Harvard chief offer a tepid denouncement of antisemitism. She stopped short of directly answering Stefanik’s original question, however.
The bizarre takeaway appeared to be that at Harvard, calls for genocide are permissible in some instances, principally if they do not actually result in mass murder.
Dr Gay was not alone in serving up such morally bereft testimony before Congress. Sitting to her left and uttering near-identical responses was UPenn president Liz Magill — who later sought to clarify her remarks on social media, but just over 24 hours later, finally caved into pressure to resign from her post.
Speculation has since surrounded the fate of Dr Gay — all the more so following bombshell revelations that her PhD dissertation and other research is awash with plagiarism that violates Harvard’s own stated policies on academic integrity. Indeed, even the super-woke student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, has questioned “whether her tenure will be safe in the long term” as a result.
For now, however, Gay’s position appears secure. In a statement published on Wednesday, the Harvard Corporation — the school’s most powerful governing board — acknowledged the plagiarism allegations and Gay’s botched Capitol Hill testimony, but declared nevertheless, “In this tumultuous and difficult time, we unanimously stand in support of President Gay.”
Assuming Gay stays on indefinitely, this week’s events represent the triumph of woke over the forces of sanity — and ultimately over Harvard’s highly decorated reputation.
As noted by billionaire Harvard alum Bill Ackman, in an open letter he penned to the members of the Harvard Governing Boards:
President Gay’s failures have led to billions of dollars of cancelled, paused, and withdrawn donations to the university. I am personally aware of more than a billion dollars of terminated donations from a small group of Harvard’s most generous Jewish and non-Jewish alumni.
Ackman has rained fury on his alma mater for its handling of events post-October 7, taking particular aim at Claudine Gay whom he has accused of doing “more damage to the reputation of Harvard University than any individual in our nearly 500-year history”.
“President Gay catalyzed an explosion of antisemitism and hate on campus that is unprecedented in Harvard’s history,” he fumed, adding that her misguided leadership has “led to the metastasis of antisemitism to other universities and institutions around the world”.
Even the simple fact that a Harvard president merited a Congressional investigation is “an incredible embarrassment for Harvard,” according to Ackman, who has “been unable to identify any former Harvard president being the subject of a Congressional investigation since the establishment of the Congress in 1789”.
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Political commentator Andrew Sullivan was equally scathing about Harvard’s antisemitic turn in an article this week taking a torch to the university’s woke infestation. He writes:
As soon as students are admitted under [Harvard’s] identity framework, they are taught its core precepts: that the “truth” — or, in Harvard’s now-ironic motto, “Veritas” — is a function not of logic or reason or of open, free, robust debate and dialogue, let alone of Western civilization, but of inimical and evil “power structures” rooted in identity that need to be dismantled first.
Sullivan is unafraid to label this woke mindset “neo-Marxism”, and he argues that this is what underpins the antisemitism now rife on Ivy League campuses nationwide:
If a member of an oppressor class says something edgy, it is a form of violence. If a member of an oppressed class commits actual violence, it’s speech. That’s why many Harvard students instantly supported a fundamentalist terror cult that killed, tortured, systematically raped and kidnapped Jews just for being Jews in their own country…
It would be wrong to see this as a function merely of old-school anti-Semitism. The new anti-Semitism is simply a subsidiary of the entire rubric of “anti-Whiteness” that is taught as the supreme principle of “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.” DEI does not mean and has never meant diversity, equity and inclusion for all. It means active support for the “oppressed” against the “oppressors.”
For all of the above reasons, Dr. Gay’s tenure is safe — threatened, I would argue, only by further revelations of plagiarism, which could yet be used as the pretext for her ousting. Ben Shapiro said it well:
Liz Magill could be safely defenestrated as a fig leaf to donors. She's a white lady and thus has no intersectional status that might threaten the DEI hierarchy. Claudine Gay was appointed based on DEI credentials to represent the DEI system. She is unfireable.— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) December 12, 2023
Dr Gay was not hired on merit but for her gender, skin colour and political outlook. Firing her for enforcing the very DEI framework that got her hired in the first place would make little sense — indeed, it would undermine the whole project.
Firing Gay would also give the proponents of sanity a false hope. Toppling a school’s president will do little to erode the towering edifice of wokeness that now stands on college campuses from coast to coast.
But by keeping her in place, Harvard’s leadership has told the world that it values ideology more than academic excellence — the one move that could seal Harvard’s ultimate demise.
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: cartoon by Brian Doyle
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