Gay Is Gone // And the race card is dutifully played

“I humbly apologize for not reacting for days to the savage October 7 attack on Israel, and for not adequately countering anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments on campus. And I am ashamed by the plagiarism in which I repeatedly engaged over the years.”

That was Harvard University’s Claudine Gay, announcing her resignation as president of the celebrated institution of diversity, equity and inclusion—I mean, of higher learning.

Nah. Just joking.

What Professor Gay in fact wrote—and no joke here, really—was that “It has been distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigor—two bedrock values that are fundamental to who I am.”

Professor Gay, who has Haitian roots, saw fit to add how she had been “subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus.” In a subsequent New York Times op-ed, she explained that she had received ugly anonymous emails (welcome to the club, ma’am).

But she did, blessedly, acknowledge that it was in “the best interests of Harvard for me to resign.”

For any readers who may have spent past months on the International Space Station, Ms. Gay came under fire, along with two other university presidents, for her performance at a December 5 Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill, in which she refused to say definitively that calling for the genocide of Jews violates the school’s code of conduct, only allowing for the possibility that it could be unacceptable “depending on the context.”

No doubt, she was coached by an overly-cautious lawyer to respond that way. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall of her office (assuming Harvard’s “inclusion” policy extends to flies) during that coaching session.

Although Dr. Gay later walked her testimony back, saying that she had “failed to convey what is my truth,” namely, “that calls for violence against our Jewish community…have no place at Harvard,” it was a little too little, a little too late. Months earlier, she had already established her irresoluteness, with her response (or, better, lack of it) in the immediate wake of the October 7 Hamas massacre.

While Harvard had responded to other global events like the war in Ukraine and the anti-racism movement that emerged after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, it took more than two days for the university to condemn the horrific Hamas attack.

And even that reaction came only after a letter authored by a slew of student groups blamed Israel for being attacked, and the dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education sent an email expressing her “concerns in the aftermath of the deadly attacks…where it has been reported that more than 1,100 people have been killed and hundreds more wounded by the actions taken by Hamas and the Israeli government.”

Yes, you read that right. A graduate school dean of education equated a savage, murderous movement with the people it pines to savagely murder.

Another source of chagrin about Ms. Gay concerned her creation in November of a university group to advise administrators on how to combat anti-Semitism on campus. A laudable undertaking, to be sure, but one that turned out to be more show than substance.

The group met weekly, but Ms. Gay never consulted with it and no new measures to fight Jew hatred were ever enacted, leaving the impression that establishing the group was a superficial, not meaningful, move.

But disappointment with Dr. Gay’s delayed reaction to the October 7 massacre and perfunctoriness regarding the anti-anti-Semitism group faded into the background when accusations of plagiarism in her scholarly work, including in her doctoral dissertation, began to emerge. And emerge. And emerge—more than 40 in all.

Some were minor, some decidedly less so. But the sheer number of unattributed borrowings—even, amusingly, the lifting of a creative sentence from the acknowledgments section of another author’s book to thank her own mentor and family—established a pattern of something less than professionalism. She seemed to not appreciate the importance of quotation marks.

Just as disturbing, though, as Ms. Gay’s inactions and actions were some reactions to her resignation.

Dustin J. Seibert, at “The Root,” a website whose motto is “Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude,” borrowed former President Trump’s go-to phrase, asserting that Ms. Gay had been the victim of a “witch hunt.”

“Thanks,” the writer opined, “to a cocktail of rich donors who believe that she was a diversity hire and good old-fashioned ‘conservative pundits’ (read: racists), Gay had a target on her back that it wasn’t too hard to hit.”

Ibram X. Kendi (the former Henry Rogers), founder and director of the “Center for Antiracist Research” at Boston University, saw Ms. Gay’s resignation as the work of “racist mobs” intent on removing “all Black people from positions of power and influence.”

Not one to be left behind when shouts of “Racism!” abound, Al Sharpton characterized Ms. Gay’s resignation as “an attack on every Black woman in this country who’s put a crack in the glass ceiling.”

Messrs. Seibert, Kendi and Sharpton all suffer here from myopia bordering on blindness.

There is no evidence, nor any reason to believe, that Ms. Gay was forced to resign because of her skin tone. The White president of the University of Pennsylvania, M. Elizabeth Magill, resigned days after her own testimony at the Congressional hearing, which was virtually identical to Ms. Gay’s, met the same uproar. And, most germane, plagiarism is color blind; it is just as incongruent with scholarly respectability when committed by a Black person as when committed by someone of more pallid complexion.

Another misguided accusation regarding evildoers’ role in Ms. Gay’s departure from her post involves Mr. Seibert’s “cocktail of rich donors”—wealthy Harvard alumni who, back in October, were angered by the then-president’s lack of alacrity regarding October 7 and campus anti-Semitism.

Some of the billionaires who threatened to deprive Harvard of their annual megamillion-dollar donations, like Kenneth Griffin, are not Jewish. But others, like Bill Ackman, Seth Klarman, Len Blavatnik and Lloyd Blankfein, are.

Now, Harvard alumni have no obligation to send gargantuan gifts to their alma mater. And so it would be unfair, to say the least, to decry a personal decision by an alumnus who objects to decisions the university has made to no longer bestow barrels of bullion on schools they once attended.

But it’s not a “good look” when rich people try to use their riches to make a statement, even though those riches are theirs to use and their statement is principled. And the optics are really red meat for some, when the philanthropists happen to be Jews.

That’s why I don’t myself make multi-million dollar annual donations to my own yeshivah, Ner Yisroel. Well, part of the reason, anyway.

In fact, speaking of yeshivos, I’d like to call on the chagrined Harvard donors to consider transferring their largesse to true Jewish institutions of higher learning; they can be counted on to always hew to the highest ethical standards—and could really use the cash.

C’mon, fellas, step up to the plate.

In the end, though, it was plagiarism, not Ms. Gay’s delayed reaction to the October 6 massacre or inadequate dealing with anti-Semitism on campus that forced her resignation.

Harvard stalwartly stood by its then-president for months after those issues were being widely discussed. It was only when an enterprising reporter took a deep dive into Ms. Gay’s scholarly output and discovered what Harvard’s machers either hadn’t known or knew but, for whatever reason, ignored that she was compelled to resign.

In a way, I feel sorry for Ms. Gay. Despite her lapses, she has tumbled from the pinnacle of a university to the status of a mere professor in the same school.

Then again, my sympathy is somewhat tempered by the report that she will be keeping her salary of some $900,000 per annum.

Think maybe she can be persuaded to help some worthy yeshivah?

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