(The Daily Signal) – Numerous and compounding reasons led to Claudine Gay’s removal as president of Harvard University. Her departure, while a necessary first step, does not solve the problems that required her departure and that continue to plague Harvard and much of higher education.
Gay was manifestly unqualified for the position, with only a fraction of the scholarly accomplishments of her predecessors at Harvard and peers at other universities. She was obviously selected as a symbol for the diversity, equity, and inclusion—or DEI—ideology that Harvard wishes to promote, not because of her merit as a scholar. Gay even used DEI as a cudgel to eliminate rivals—much more accomplished black professors, such as Roland Fryer and Ronald Sullivan—with manufactured charges that they had created hostile work environments.
But the use of DEI as a departure from academic merit and as a weapon for organizational combat is not eliminated with Gay’s departure. The DEI bureaucracy that she helped build and use for her ascent remains intact at Harvard and throughout higher education.
The growing number of plagiarism charges against Gay focused more attention on her lack of scholarly merit as Harvard’s president. Like the old Catskills joke about the food being horrible and with such small portions, academic fraud characterized the meager research output Gay had produced.
These plagiarism charges were more than sufficient reason for her removal as president, but the fact that she remains as a Harvard professor does not resolve the lowering of research standards that her misconduct represents. In addition, Harvard’s willingness to keep Gay as president until the instances of plagiarism became too numerous raises concerns about the double standards with which Harvard and other universities enforce their rules. They would have sanctioned a student immediately—and for far less.
Critical attention on Gay gained momentum after her disastrous testimony before a U.S. House committee investigating antisemitic protests on university campuses. Her unwillingness to say that chanting genocidal slogans would violate Harvard’s code of conduct while the university regularly punishes much more benign speech highlighted Gay’s own use of double standards. But Gay’s removal does not resolve this double standard nor does it mitigate the rampant Jew-hatred found at Harvard and other elite institutions.
Lastly, it should be noted that there have been no sanctions for the members of the Harvard board who hired Gay despite her obvious lack of qualifications, defended her plagiarism, threatened those investigating the matter, and embraced the DEI ideology and double standards that foment Jew-hatred on campus. They should be held accountable, too.
Progress toward resolving these issues at Harvard and elsewhere could not be done without the removal of bad actors like Gay and the board members who enabled her. But the public campaign to fire Gay has not really fixed any of Harvard’s serious problems.
Bloated DEI bureaucracies continue to promote the discriminatory ideology that people deserve different treatment depending upon the racial, ethnic, or sexual identities that place them in “oppressor” or “oppressed” categories. Standards for research integrity continue to weaken and be upheld differently depending on the preferred status of researchers and their findings. And the selective enforcement of codes of conduct that make universities more hostile to anyone deemed to be an oppressor, including Jews, white men, and believing Christians.
The same public campaign that ousted Gay now needs to turn its attention to the policies and practices that allowed her to become Harvard president and produce enough disastrous publicity to force her removal.
We need to dismantle DEI bureaucracies and uproot the ideology they promote on campus. We need to reestablish high and consistent standards for academic research. This would almost certainly require the elimination of academic departments that are characterized more by political advocacy than rigorous inquiry, such as ethnic and gender studies departments.
We also need to get universities to adopt and consistently enforce strong protections of free academic speech while also fully prosecuting violations of their codes of conduct, including physical harassment, trespassing, and the use of the heckler’s veto to drown out disfavored speakers.
Gay’s removal as the president of Harvard, following Liz Magill’s departure at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that the tide is turning in academia. But much still needs to be done to bring these institutions back to serving their original and laudable missions.