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Harvard’s outgoing president Claudine Gay voiced her response to the rollercoaster of accusations-turned-resignation in an opinion piece, highlighting the heightened racism she has encountered in recent weeks.

Ms Gay became Harvard’s first Black president in July 2023. But she made another first in the university’s history this week — the shortest tenure of any president — when she resigned after facing criticism about her response to anti-semitism following the Hamas attacks followed by new scrutiny into her scholarly work.

In the New York Times, Ms Gay wrote that the scandal that surrounded her is much larger than just her or Harvard. She described the rigmarole as “merely a single skirmish in a broader war to unravel public faith in pillars of American society.”

The scholar opined that “Campaigns of this kind often start with attacks on education and expertise, because these are the tools that best equip communities to see through propaganda.”

But after attacking educational behemoths, like Harvard, Ms Gay added that other “trusted institutions” like health agencies and news organisations are the next phase of this campaign, and will face “coordinated attempts to undermine their legitimacy.”

The former university president then admitted she had made “mistakes.” She tried to clarify her stance on the Israel-Hamas war, explaining that she had fallen into “a well-laid trap” when she made the now heavily criticised remarks at a Congressional hearing in November.

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She defended her own writings following the recent discoveries of plagiarism in her dissertation. “When I learned of these errors, I promptly requested corrections from the journals in which the flagged articles were published, consistent with how I have seen similar faculty cases handled at Harvard,” Ms Gay penned.

She added that she has “never misrepresented my research findings, nor have I ever claimed credit for the research of others.”

Regardless of the fixation on her research, Ms Gay wrote, “few have commented on the substance of my scholarship, which focuses on the significance of minority office holding in American politics.”

Ms Gay then turned to “those who had relentlessly campaigned to oust me,” accusing them of using “recycled tired racial stereotypes about Black talent and temperament. They pushed a false narrative of indifference and incompetence.”

Ms Gay also noted that in recent weeks, her inbox has been flooded with hate-filled language and death threats. “I’ve been called the N-word more times than I care to count,” she wrote.

She wrote that as “a Black woman selected to lead a storied institution,” she made for “an ideal canvas for projecting every anxiety about the generational and demographic changes unfolding on American campuses.”

Ms Gay’s departure comes after calls for her resignation, following her catastrophic Congressional hearing, from more than 70 lawmakers as well as outspoken Harvard alum and billionaire hedge fund CEO Bill Ackman.

Mr Ackman previously suggested that Ms Gay was hired as part of the school’s diversity initiative. He doubled down on the issues with Harvard and its diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative in an X post spanning more than 4,000 words after Ms Gay stepped down.

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Ms Gay will resume as a member of Harvard faculty, the university announced. Alan Garber, Provost and Chief Academic Officer, will serve as interim president.

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Felecia Phillips Ollie DD (h.c.) is the inspiring leader and founder of The Equality Network LLC (TEN). With a background in coaching, travel, and a career in news, Felecia brings a unique perspective to promoting diversity and inclusion. Holding a Bachelor's Degree in English/Communications, she is passionate about creating a more inclusive future. From graduating from Mississippi Valley State University to leading initiatives like the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Equal Employment Opportunity Program, Felecia is dedicated to making a positive impact. Join her journey on our blog as she shares insights and leads the charge for equity through The Equality Network.

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