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] Harvards 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 Harvards 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 Harvards 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”.



Join Mercator today for free and get our latest news and analysis

Buck internet censorship and get the news you may not get anywhere else, delivered right to your inbox. It's free and your info is safe with us, we will never share or sell your personal data.

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:  

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 


Showing 6 reactions

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • Marty Hayden
    commented 2023-12-30 00:59:08 +1100
    The academics at Harvard couldn’t find the truth with both hands and a flashlight. DEI itself is just as phoney as the people it advances. Sadly, this nonsense is being exported from the US to the world over.
  • Peter
    commented 2023-12-16 04:09:17 +1100
    To be clear, Kurt, ‘intifada’ means:
    “An intifada (Arabic: انتفاضة intifāḍah) is a rebellion or uprising, or a resistance movement. It is a key concept in contemporary Arabic usage referring to a uprising against oppression”.
    It would appear that we will not agree on this issue. From my point of view, what happened in the three American universities, and what is happening in the Holy Land, regarding this issue is not about ‘wokism’, it’s about power and revenge. I’ve seen it first hand while living in Jerusalem, and I’m seeing it now on the daily news.
    This latest tragic situation has been in the making for a long time. There will be no defeating Hamas; the future of Hamas can be seen in the eyes of the Palestinian children and youth who are the victims of Israeli brutality!
  • mrscracker
    Thank you so much for this article Kurt.
    I know without a doubt if the same sort of genocidal abuse had been directed at any other minority group there would have been outrage & no qualifications about the issue of “context”.
    Attempting to qualify “From the River to the Sea” is no different than hanging a noose on a tree & claiming it’s only threatens depending upon the “context”.
  • Kurt Mahlburg
    commented 2023-12-16 00:32:37 +1100
    I beg to differ Peter. Yes, Israel is open to criticism like any other state. But “intifada” is a call for wanton violence against Jewish people and “From the River to the Sea” is a call for the destruction of the only Jewish state on earth. That’s not criticism. It’s genocidal. And it’s been part of the furniture at Harvard since October 7.
  • Peter
    commented 2023-12-16 00:25:10 +1100
    Sorry, Kurt, you are wrong on this one.

    You misrepresent the current Israel Vs Palestine war by referring it to Jews Vs Hamas. You’re wrong. Israel is a State and is open to criticism like any other state. By denouncing Israel’s appalling response to Hamas’ barbaric attack on Israel is not actions of Israel antisemitism. It’s denouncing the treatment of the Palestinians by the Israelis in this current war, although it has been a feature of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people since 1948. since 1948. I saw this disgusting behaviour by Israel towards the Palestinians first hand when I lived in Jerusalem for six months in 2000. Read the testimony by the former (Palestinian born) Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem as the treatment he and his family endured by the bloody occupation of their homeland by Israel.

    As for free speech, whenever comments are made about Israel, they are conveniently interpreted as being antisemitism. It seems that the only ‘free speech’ that is allowed regarding Israel (not Jews) is what is deemed acceptable by the likes of Bill Ackman (who sets himself up as the arbiter of what should be said or not said at Harvard) and his cronies. If you don’t conform to their ideology, then you won’t get their money! Sounds like blackmail to me.

    The question that should be asked (and answered) is what has happened over the past 70 years (and hundreds of years before) that has led to the truly tragic situation that is being played out in the Holy Land right now.
  • Kurt Mahlburg
    published this page in The Latest 2023-12-15 22:38:57 +1100