On Dec. 5, Gay, and the heads of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania —Sally Kornbluth and Liz Magill, respectively—failed to answer whether students calling for genocide violated their institutional codes of conduct.
When asked for a reply to that question by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), the president waffled.
Gay answered: “We embrace a commitment to free expression even of views that are objectionable, offensive, hateful—it’s when that speech crosses into conduct that violates our policies against bullying, harassment, intimidation.”
The controversial question referred to pro-Palestinian rallies on campus calling for the genocide of Jews—and more pointedly, Israelis—since the war with Hamas began after the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks.
Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law School professor emeritus, wrote in response to the statement: “I wish that were so but Harvard’s history, which earned it last place in the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s Free Speech ranking, proves otherwise. Her commitment to free speech seems to have begun in early October when Jewish students were targeted with hate speech.”
Gay later apologized for her statement, explaining that she “got caught up in what had become, at that point, an extended, combative exchange about policies and procedures.”
She became president of the Ivy League university on July 1.
On Tuesday, the college’s board released a statement: “As members of the Harvard Corporation, we today reaffirm our support for President Gay’s continued leadership of Harvard University. Our extensive deliberations affirm our confidence that President Gay is the right leader to help our community heal and to address the very serious societal issues we are facing.”
Kornbluth is staying put for the time being. Magill resigned on Dec. 9, though will remain at Penn as a tenured law professor.