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Antisemitism on Campus Forgotten Amidst Debate Over Claudine Gay’s Resignation

On Jan. 2, Harvard University president Claudine Gay stepped down after a six-month tenure, the shortest presidency in the school’s history. Dr. Gay was the second Ivy League president to resign over the past month, the first being Liz Magill from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Both resigned after a congressional hearing in December about campus antisemitism, where Republican Representative Elise Stefanik asked the university presidents whether they would take disciplinary action against students using the widespread chant, “free Palestine from the river to the sea,” which Stefanik described as “calling for the genocide of Jews.” Citing Harvard’s commitment to free speech on campus, Gay testified that the question of whether these pro-Palestinian slogans violate Harvard’s code of conduct is a question of “context.” In response, Jewish members of the Harvard community criticized her for tolerating antisemitism on campus. 

Since she took office in July 2023, Gay’s critics have questioned her qualifications. After the congressional hearing, multiple allegations of plagiarism against Dr. Gay circulated. Given the negative attention she had already attracted at the hearing, this further backlash from academics ultimately pressured Gay to step down. 

The New York Times deemed Gay’s resignation the result of “a proxy fight over campus politics,” and I agree. Both opponents and supporters of Gay have reacted to her decision with extreme partisanship. Conservative critics celebrated the resignation as a victory against diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) programs in the workplace, believing that Gay was only selected for the position because of woke politics. Vivek Ramaswamy, former Republican candidate for president, wrote on X, “It was a thinly veiled exercise in race & gender when they selected Claudine Gay.” Meanwhile, her left-wing supporters argue that Gay’s resignation was the outcome of conservatives’ determination to destroy the independence of private universities. 

This unproductive discourse over wokeness and the politics of education distracts from what should be the more relevant aspect of this debate: antisemitism. 73% of Jewish college students have reported dealing with antisemitism since the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year. The fact that Claudine Gay, the president of one of the most prestigious universities in the world, refused to explicitly condemn calls for genocide against Jews is extremely concerning, and that should be the focus of this debate. America’s response to Claudine Gay’s resignation is very reflective of our partisan political state, where both sides of the political spectrum are so obsessed with defending their beliefs that they lose sight of more threatening issues.

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