the washington post calls on universities to learn from harvard stop taking sides in culture wars

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The Washington Post called on universities and colleges to learn from Harvard’s mistakes on Thursday following Claudine Gay’s resignation. The former college president faced backlash over plagiarism allegations and her handling of antisemitism on campus.

“Harvard and other leading institutions of higher education would do well to reflect on how they themselves contributed to this debacle and how they can do better in the future,” the Washington Post editorial board wrote. 

The Post noted the backlash over Gay and former UPenn president Liz Magill’s responses to questions at a congressional hearing, saying they used “bloodless, lawyerly language” to respond to questions about calls for genocide against Jews on campus. 

The editorial board argued that the deeper cause of Gay’s resignation had to do with “the clash between elite colleges, whose students and faculty lean sharply left, and a broader society in which populist conservatism is increasingly making its presence felt.”

Claudine Gay resigned as the president of Harvard University this week following backlash over plagiarism allegations and her response to antisemitism on campus. (Getty Images)


“The lesson for Harvard and for all universities is that it was a mistake to create the expectation that university presidents must weigh in on the great issues of the day. If administrators, as a matter of principle, avoided pandering to left-wing activists on campus they would be on firmer ground resisting activist, right-wing or otherwise, voices off it. And their claims to respect all speech — within uniformly applied time, manner and place limitations — would have more credibility,” the editorial board continued. 

The board added that Harvard and Gay were inconsistent in policing free speech on campus, arguing they often do it when the speech “offends prevailing progressive sentiment.”

Gay claimed to be a victim of racially motivated attacks in her letter of resignation. She did not address the plagiarism allegations. 

“It has been distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigor—two bedrock values that are fundamental to who I am—and frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus,” she wrote.

Harvard President Claudine Gay

Harvard President Claudine Gay (2nd L) attends a menorah lighting ceremony on the seventh night of Hanukkah with the University’s Jewish community on December 13, 2023, in Harvard Yard, Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)


“The business of a great university is not to take sides in America’s culture wars,” the board wrote. “When universities appear to take a ‘collective position,’ they undermine this purpose, signaling to students and faculty that there is only one right way to think.”

The board added that Harvard and universities in general were not “blameless” and said they needed to take the opportunity to learn.

Liberal professors rallied to Gay’s defense on Wednesday and accused her critics of being “racist mobs” and “fascist mouth-breathers.”

Claudine Gay

Former Harvard President Claudine Gay, who recently made headlines for refusing to say if calling for genocide of Jews was against Harvard policy during a congressional hearing, has been accused of multiple accounts of plagiarism in recent weeks. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)


“Racist mobs won’t stop until they topple all Black people from positions of power and influence who are not reinforcing the structure of racism,” Boston University professor Ibram X. Kendi posted on X. “What these racist mobs are doing should be obvious to any reporter who cares about truth or justice as opposed to conflicts and clicks.”

“She definitely did not deserve this,” Georgetown assistant professor Amanda Sahar d’Urso wrote on social media. “I hope she can live her life in peace, for the sake of her mental and emotional well-being.”

“For the rest of us, this is a load of crap garbage and we should be really concerned,” she continued.

Fox News’ Andrew Mark Miller contributed to this report.

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