Claudine Gay was the first black woman to take command of the university; She also faced accusations of plagiarism.

The president of Harvard University, Claudine Gay, resigned from her position this Tuesday (2 January 2024). “It has been distressing to have doubts about my commitment to confronting hate and upholding academic rigor – 2 values ​​fundamental to who I am – and frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animosity”, the 53-year-old economist wrote in a statement. Claudine was the first black woman to assume the presidency of Harvard.

Her resignation came after she was criticized for refusing to answer a question in an education committee in the US Congress about punishments for students for statements considered anti-Semitic. Alan Garber will assume the presidency on an interim basis.

Gay is also accused of having committed plagiarism when producing her 1997 doctoral thesis. In December 2023, Harvard announced that it had found more cases of “duplicate language without proper attribution” in articles published by Gay.

According to the newspaper report New York Times (link for subscribers), examples of plagiarism include excerpts from technical definitions without specific reference and the absence of direct mention of theses prepared in studies by other researchers. The accusations, according to the newspaper, divided the opinion of the academic community regarding the real seriousness and pattern of the incidents.


In relation to the Middle East conflict, the case began on October 7, the day the conflict between Israel and the extremist group Hamas began. On that occasion, university students released a letter in which they blamed Israel for the “ongoing violence”. On October 10, the then president declared that students had the right to express themselves and that they did not speak on behalf of Harvard or its leaders.

During a session at the Capitol, held on December 5, Claudine Gay reinforced her initial statement and said that a possible punishment would have to be adjusted according to the university’s policies. After the statement, Republicans accused the president of the teaching unit of failing to combat anti-Semitism among the institution’s students. According to them, prejudice increased after the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.

The university’s board declared on December 12 that it would keep the president in office. “Our extensive deliberations affirm our confidence that President Gay is the right leader to help our community heal and resolve the social problems we face,” said the Harvard administration.

Claudine held the position for 6 months, this being the shortest term in the university’s history. Her resignation is the 2nd from an Ivy League institution, the list of most prestigious universities in the USA, for statements regarding the war between Israel and Hamas.

The 1st was the departure of Liz Magill, who had presided over the University of Pennsylvania since July 2022, on December 9. During a hearing in Congress, she refused to answer questions from deputies about which demonstrations by university students against “Genocide of Jews” would violate the institution’s conduct policies. Magill attended the same Congressional session as Claudine Gay.

“It has been a privilege to serve as president of this remarkable institution. It has been an honor to work with our faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members to advance Penn’s vital missions.”said the then president in a statement issued by the University of Pennsylvania.


Claudine Gay is the daughter of Haitian immigrants. She graduated with a degree in economics from Stanford University in 1992. She received the Anna Laura Myers Award for best undergraduate thesis. In 1998, she completed her PhD (equivalent to a doctorate) at Harvard. She won the Toppan Prize for best dissertation in political science.

Afterwards, Gay worked at Stanford as a professor. In 2006, she was hired by Harvard. A year later, she took a position teaching African and African American studies.

Since 2018, Claudine Gay has been director of FAS. The institute brings together courses in biological sciences, physics, engineering, social sciences, humanities and arts.


Harvard was founded in 1636 and has become one of the most prestigious universities in the world. At the ranking of the best universities in the world in 2022, from US News & World Reportthe higher education institution is in 1st place.

The North American university has a endowment fund (perpetual reserve fund). In 2022, it reached US$50.9 billion (equivalent to R$248.9 billion at current prices).


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