Claudine Gay, invested as the 30th President of Harvard University on July 1, 2023, was the first black and second woman to hold that post. Under criticism for her testimony in Congress about antisemitism at Harvard, followed by allegations of plagiarism in her professional writings, she resigned on January 2, 2024, ending the shortest presidency in Harvard’s long history.
Reproduced below is my response of January 12, 2024, to a letter dated January 8, 2024, from Harvard’s interim president concerning this unfortunate but possibly quite pivotal event.
Dr. Alan M. Garber
Interim President, Harvard University
Cambridge, MA 02138
Dear President Garber:
I write this open letter in response to yours of January 8, 2024, under the heading “Our Work Together” addressed to the Harvard Community.
As a graduate of the College (1962) and the Law School (1970), I had the privilege of attending what some of us older alumni refer to as the “old Harvard”–the Harvard that existed before critical legal studies, critical race theory, DEI and COVID-19. The first represented an attack on the rule of law in which HLS played no small part; the second an attack on American history and values as previously understood and taught to generations of students; the third an attack on merit, ultimately leading to a twofer with a minimal and arguably fraudulent academic record rising to the presidency of the nation’s once most prestigious university; and the fourth an attack on science in the wake of a pandemic triggered by escape–inadvertently or by design–of a virus developed in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention by American scientists working with the Chinese. In none of these instances did the University with the motto “Veritas” play any significant role in exposing, let alone resisting, these forces so inimical to its core purposes.
On the contrary, the most significant, intelligent and common-sense proposal to emerge from the academic community with respect to COVID-19 was the Great Barrington Declaration, authored by three medical school professors with expertise in public health, including Harvard’s Dr. Martin Kulldorff, and seemingly related to his largely unexplained departure from the active faculty. Instead of following their advice particularly with respect to the healthy young of college age, Harvard along with numerous other colleges and universities chose to mandate an experimental “vaccine”–subsequently proven neither safe nor effective–for all its students, some of whom will suffer life-altering health consequences as a result.
Evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein recently told Tucker Carlson that counting the victims of both the disease and the jabs, the death toll from the pandemic now stands at around 17 million, a casualty level associated with global war. But this public health disaster of previously unimaginable proportions has yet to result in the imposition of any significant or effective public accountability on any of its principal perpetrators. Like Harvard’s presidential plagiarist, they have so far been allowed to evade responsibility for conduct that no viable society can or should tolerate. It is sometimes said that a fish rots from the head, an apt metaphor for a nation decaying from the failure of its leading educational institutions to instruct on the principles and values that once made that nation great.
In my day plagiarism was a quick ticket to expulsion. Indeed, it was said, though so far as I know never confirmed, that expulsion for plagiarism resulted in the complete severance of all connections between the University and the offender, even including cessation of fund-raising mailings. In any event, no self-respecting college or university can allow or accept the resignation of a professor, never mind a president, under a cloud of well-grounded and unresolved allegations of plagiarism while at the same time permitting that individual to resume a senior (or any) position on its faculty.
If Harvard is to begin the Herculean task of restoring its reputation as a leading light in the educational firmament, the necessary first step is to resolve the allegations of plagiarism against former President Gay under a clear standard applicable to all students and faculty. If not definitively resolved in her favor, unlikely on the current public record, her employment by the University in any position must be terminated. Otherwise her case will stand for the proposition that blacks, women and other recipients of DEI preferences are not subject to the same high standards of academic integrity as other members of the University community. What is more, by far the heaviest price for this double standard will be paid by precisely those who, though favored by DEI, nevertheless undertook to meet and satisfy the high standards applicable to those not so favored, for the degrees and other academic achievements of these DEI beneficiaries will always be tarnished by the suspicion that they were not truly earned.
On a more personal note, when I arrived at the College in the fall of 1958, Harvard still enjoyed a reputation as a bastion of academic freedom, due in no small part to President Pusey’s courage in standing up to attacks by Senator Joseph McCarthy. By the time I graduated from the Law School in 1970, President Pusey’s decision to call the Massachusetts State Police to clear the Yard of students forcibly disrupting the University’s normal operations was a subject of considerable debate. But Dr. Pusey was the same man, an intrepid defender of academic freedom, rigorous standards, free speech, open debate, and civilized conduct. What had changed was the willingness of many in the academic community at Harvard and other schools to tolerate conduct that in previous years would have been rejected as wholly incompatible with a properly functioning university. Since then the decline in all meaningful measures of faculty and student performance and conduct has accelerated to the point of making Harvard’s motto a bad joke and the Ivy League the butt of many more.
Longtime natives of New England, my family has enjoyed many connections to Harvard over the years. Besides myself, my brother, father, grandfather, great grandfather and three uncles were all graduates of the College. My cousin Mark Howe was a professor at the Law School, where he was sometimes regarded as the “conscience” of that once august institution. My grandfather, for whom I am named, founded Belmont Hill School, which early on determined that “Harvard’s standards must be our standards,” and which has educated the progeny of many of Harvard’s most legendary faculty. This academic year marks the School’s Centennial. Harvard President-emeritus Charles William Elliot delivered the principal address at its opening, President Bok and Yale President Brewster (a Belmont Hill graduate) at its 50th anniversary, and President Rudenstine at its 75th. By a stroke of fate, President Gay broke this chain on October 13, 2023.
Sadly, Belmont Hill has been beset by the same problems as Harvard, though fortunately to a lesser degree. In connection with the Centennial, I have addressed these issues in a special section of my website, www.goldensextant.com. While unlikely that this letter will ever come to your undivided attention, nevertheless its publication on my website may bring more attention to the perils and injustices of DEI. Harvard’s debacle with its recently departed president is a dramatic wake-up call to the trustees or other governing bodies of all educational institutions. Its impact is further heightened by Ms. Gay’s efforts to blame her downfall on racism when in fact it was the very racism of DEI that greased her path from Phillips Exeter through Princeton, Stanford and Harvard, to Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and ultimately President of Harvard.
But hers is a lesson on failure of character. The pandemic generated many more. However, the pandemic also produced inspiring examples of strength of character, of scientists and physicians–often at great personal risk—defying the official narrative, developing protocols for early treatment, warning against both the dangers of mass vaccination and the risks inherent in the various jabs, and inquiring into the true origin of the virus. Distressingly few of these courageous professionals came from the elite colleges and universities, most notably their medical schools, and most that did quickly faced retaliation.
All these intrepid men and women stand as examples of real strength of character, as persons worthy of trust, as leaders in the truest sense, as people committed to the search for truth. Among this cohort, not the “go along to get along” crowd, Harvard might find a president capable of restoring the University to its former greatness and leading a reformation of American higher education.
Reginald H. Howe