Harvard University president resigns amid antisemitism and plagiarism scandal

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The president of Harvard University has resigned after being accused of plagiarism and criticised over her comments on antisemitism on campus.

Claudine Gay, Harvard’s first black president, announced her departure just months into her tenure in a letter to the Harvard community.

She is the second Ivy League president to resign in the last month following the congressional testimony about antisemitism on campus, following Liz Magill, the president of the University of Pennsylvania.

Asked at a congressional hearing on antisemitism whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” would violate the university’s code of conduct, Ms Gay said it depended on the context, adding that when “speech crosses into conduct, that violates our policies”.

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Her remarks were criticised by Republican and some Democrat politicians, as well as the White House, and the hearing was parodied in the opening skit on Saturday Night Live.

Following the hearing, Ms Gay’s academic career was intensely scrutinised by conservative activists who found several instances of alleged plagiarism in her 1997 doctoral dissertation.

Harvard’s governing board initially rallied behind Ms Gay, saying a review of her scholarly work turned up “a few instances of inadequate citation” but no evidence of research misconduct.

But days later the Harvard Corporation revealed it found two additional examples of “duplicative language without appropriate attribution”. The board said Ms Gay would update her dissertation and request corrections.

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In the letter announcing her resignation Ms Gay said it has been “distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigour – two bedrock values that are fundamental to who I am – and frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fuelled by racial animus”.

Ms Gay, who is returning to the school’s staff, added it “has become clear that it is in the best interests of Harvard for me to resign so that our community can navigate this moment of extraordinary challenge”.

Alan Garber, provost and chief academic officer, will serve as interim president until Harvard finds a replacement, the Harvard Corporation said in a statement.

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