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Fallout continues amid Harvard president's resignation


We're continuing to track the fallout at Harvard University after the resignation of President Claudine Gay. Her resignation follows a controversial congressional testimony over campus antisemitism and amid mounting allegations of plagiarism. For more on how the campus community is reacting, we've called up Miles Herszenhorn. He's managing editor for the university newspaper, The Harvard Crimson. Miles, welcome back.

MILES HERSZENHORN: Thank you for having me on.

SUMMERS: So Miles, Claudine Gay's resignation comes just months into her tenure as Harvard's president. Tell us what it's been like. What has the reaction been like among students on campus?

HERSZENHORN: Students on campus are surprised. It's shocking that the president that everybody expected would last for maybe 10 years or more has resigned before the start of their second semester on the job. When it comes to her resignation itself, there's obviously a bunch of mixed reactions. There are some students who believe that President Gay never got a fair shot. She came under criticism so soon and so early into her tenure that it became impossible to even know what her presidency really could have been like. On the other hand, there are others who believe that the plagiarism allegations, her response to antisemitism on campus and the university's initial statement after Hamas' October 7 attack on Israel was just too damning, and that she could not continue in the job - so mixed reactions.

SUMMERS: Professor Gay had faced allegations of plagiarism in her academic work, like inadequately citing sources. And a few days ago, an anonymous member of the Harvard College Honor Council wrote an op-ed for The Crimson. And they write - and I'm quoting here - "when my peers are found responsible for multiple instances of inadequate citation, they are often suspended for an academic year. When the president of their university is found responsible for the same types of infractions, the fellows of the corporation quote, 'unanimously stand in support of' her."

Miles, I want to ask you - how are students talking about these plagiarism accusations against Claudine Gay specifically here?

HERSZENHORN: Some people viewed these as really damning and perhaps one of the worst things to emerge about President Claudine Gay, as this was something that directly impacted her standing as a scholar. That being said, there are others who believe that these plagiarism allegations were exaggerated - that they were part of a plot to oust Gay orchestrated by conservative activists - and believe that these allegations did not amount to that much.

SUMMERS: Claudine Gay was the second university president to resign after that congressional hearing last year where she and others really seemed to evade the question of whether students who called for the genocide of Jews should be punished. Now, given some weeks and her resignation, how are students talking about that part of the story?

HERSZENHORN: In regards to her specific testimony before Congress, it's very clear that the backlash was not just in Washington. People on campus took note. The leadership at Harvard Hillel - the university's Jewish center - criticized Gay's testimony before Congress. They did not call on her to resign then, but they did question whether she could adequately protect Jewish students on campus, given her testimony then. So it's clear it had an impact, but not sure if the conversation has really continued beyond that for now.

SUMMERS: Miles, what are you and your colleagues at The Crimson going to be paying attention to, especially as most students are preparing to return to campus there in the coming weeks?

HERSZENHORN: We are going to be paying very close attention to the story. In particular, we're going to be looking at the student body. What are the reactions going to be like on campus when students return in late January? It's possible that there will be some activism from the student body in response to President Gay's decision to resign. But also, we're going to be looking at what's the future looking like for Harvard. Who will become the next permanent president of the university? A search will play out. It will likely take months, if not close to a year. And The Crimson will be at the forefront of that story, just like we were on this one.

SUMMERS: That's Miles Herszenhorn, managing editor of The Harvard Crimson. Miles, thank you for your time and your team's great reporting.

HERSZENHORN: Thank you for having me on again. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Erika Ryan
Erika Ryan is a producer for All Things Considered. She joined NPR after spending 4 years at CNN, where she worked for various shows and in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Ryan began her career in journalism as a print reporter covering arts and culture. She's a graduate of the University of South Carolina, and currently lives in Washington, D.C., with her dog, Millie.
Tinbete Ermyas
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.