Wyoming lawmakers who attended Harvard University are outraged that their former school is retaining its controversial president after she wouldn’t refute all forms of antisemitism on her campus.
Last week, Harvard President Claudine Gay testified to Congress that the school tolerates antisemitism in certain situations, based on its “context.”
State Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, who earned a master’s degree from the school in 2016, said Harvard’s backing of Gay shows an egregious “double standard.”
“It’s absolutely pathetic,” he said. “For a school that has positioned itself around safe spaces and respectful free speech to have a president who refuses to acknowledge the mass murder of Jews as antisemetic is pathetic.”
On Tuesday, Harvard University’s board announced it will retain Gay, the university’s first Black president.
In a statement, the school defended Gay’s leadership while acknowledging that she’s made mistakes regarding the comments she has made about the Israel-Hamas War and the school’s policy on antisemetism.
Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, who earned a Bachelor of Economics from Harvard in 1979, also condemned the decision.
“The progressives have completely taken over the elite educational institutions,” Kinskey said. “It was evident enough when I was at Harvard 44 years ago, but it has gone completely over the edge.”
What Did She Say?
While testifying before Congress last week, Gay said that calling for the genocide of Jews only sometimes violates Harvard’s rules of bullying and harrasment.
“It can be, depending on the context,” she said.
Gay clarified shortly after that the school does act when it believes antisemetic rhetoric amounts to bullying, harassment or intimidation.
But when New York Republican congresswoman Elise Stefanik pressed Gay on this point and asked her again if calling for the genocide of Jews violates the school’s code of conduct, the school president pivoted, saying, “Again, it depends on the context.”
Western said there is no form of antisemetic rhetoric that can be seen as a source of legitimate academic rigor or discourse. He equated it to someone wearing a white bedsheet as a form of Klu Klux Klan robe around campus and the way this act would likely be perceived by Black people.
“It’s unacceptable and it shouldn’t be tolerated,” Western said. “it’s unbelievably racist.”
The congressional exchange quickly roiled across social media, drawing anger and outrage from many people with close ties to Harvard and among the American Jewish community.
University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill, who testified at the hearing with Gay, resigned shortly after.
Gay issued an apology in the school’s newspaper.
“When words amplify distress and pain, I don’t know how you could feel anything but regret,” she told The Crimson.
These words weren’t enough to stop a pressure campaign to oust her, with many wealthy donors calling for her removal.
On Monday, the school’s board met into the wee hours of the night before deciding to keep Gay.
Started With Hamas Attacks
Gay also came under fire for her initial reluctance to condemn the Hamas terrorist attacks. Thirty student groups at Harvard said after the attacks on Oct. 7 that Israel was “entirely responsible” for the mass killing and kidnapping of Israelis that took place that day.
“So many people have suffered tremendous damage and pain because of Hamas’ brutal terrorist attack, and the University’s initial statement should have been an immediate, direct and unequivocal condemnation,” the school’s statement on Tuesday said.
Gay was already aware of the concerns brought by Jewish students at the school.
In October, she met with Jewish students at Harvard and heard their concerns. She also announced the formation of an advisory group to confront antisemitism on campus, and said the Ivy League school should be a place where everyone feels safe and seen.
“Our Jewish students have shared searing accounts of feeling isolated and targeted,” she said.
Kinskey said that simply removing Gay would not address what he sees as some of the deeper, underlying issues happening at the school.
“We can only hope that the big money donors to these institutions can bring enough pressure to get it turned around,” Kinskey said. “But simply changing the president is not going to do it, the radical leftism, I assume, permeates most of the faculty.”
Western said he saw inklings of this when he attended the school, mentioning how certain places were created on campus for only Black students to attend. He believes identity politics and a “woke” agenda has permeated the school.
About 700 members of Harvard’s faculty rallied behind Gay, defending her in several open letters. One of the letters, from Black faculty members, called the attacks on the president “specious and politically motivated.”
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.