“Veritas” — That’s the motto for Harvard University, the Latin word for “Truth” that is purported to be the guiding light for the faculty, staff, and students at America’s oldest institute of higher education. But after this week, Harvard’s motto seems to be “Veritas Mea” — (My Truth).
During Harvard President Claudine Gay's testimony in front of the House of Representatives last week, she repeated it “depends on the context” when asked whether calls for genocide against the Jewish people would violate the university's code of conduct.
Days later Gay tried to explain and clarify her remarks after they were widely condemned by Harvard alumni, donors, and a significant number of critics from both political parties, including the White House.
“Substantively, I failed to convey what is my truth,” Gay explained to the campus newspaper, lamenting she failed to “return to my guiding truth” when asked to clarify the university's position.
Gay continued struggling over the idea that “The Truth” would necessarily define calls of genocide against any people as fundamentally wrong and against conduct required by the university.
The controversy, she said in her interview “makes me sad,” admitting her words seemed to cause “pain” among the Jewish students and alumni.
She blamed the “combative exchange” with Harvard alumnus Rep. Elise Stefanik for clouding her “presence of mind” during the hearing. Anyone watching the hearing knew that Gay’s contrition rang hollow after she repeatedly demonstrated defiance and smug arrogance on the subject.
The truth surrounding the morality and punishment surrounding calls for genocide should be common sense. Two Harvard University alums in the Wyoming Legislature correctly condemned Gay’s remarks as both wrong and embarrassing for the entire university.
It’s amusing (but not surprising) to watch someone with a Harvard degree struggle to understand that “Truth” should never be subjectively defined.
That was before her plagiarism scandal.
Public reports and private investigations revealed days later that Gay had plagiarized significant portions of her academic work.
The Manhattan Institute’s Christopher Rufo and Karlstack’s Chris Brunet revealed examples of plagiarism in her doctoral dissertation followed by a Washington Free Beacon report that Gay paraphrased or quoted nearly 20 authors without proper attribution in her academic work.
The examples violated Harvard’s plagiarism policies, putting those rules in jeopardy. Equal justice under the law, demands truth over power or position.
It was then up to Harvard’s leading body to strengthen both the moral values of the university and its academic policies.
Instead of acting decisively on their motto of “Veritas,” Harvard leaders reaffirmed their support for Gay, despite her moral and leadership failures. Serious accusations and evidence of plagiarism were dismissed as “instances of inadequate citation.”
“In this tumultuous and difficult time, we unanimously stand in support of President Gay,” they wrote.
It was a vacuous and morally bankrupt response that further threatened the credibility of the university. Now we know that refusing to institutionally condemn genocide and evidence of plagiarism “depends on the context” more than the Truth.
Why did Harvard fail so spectacularly in a moment where Gay’s failed leadership and moral integrity were apparent? The truth is found in a letter signed by more than 700 Harvard faculty who on Monday signed a letter of support for Gay.
“We, the undersigned faculty, urge you in the strongest possible terms to defend the independence of the university and to resist political pressures that are at odds with Harvard’s commitment to academic freedom, including calls for the removal of President Claudine Gay,” they wrote, adding that “the critical work of defending a culture of free inquiry in our diverse community cannot proceed if we let its shape be dictated by outside forces.”
That letter makes it clear that the most important value for Harvard faculty was not “Truth” but preventing the gall of watching “outside forces” gloating if Gay was forced to resign. The guiding fellows of the academic institution were left with no other choice but to keep Gay as their leader, despite her embarrassing moral and academic failures.
The governing body made it clear: Harvard will decide what is true, despite embarrassing truths uncovered by elected political representatives and journalists.
Charlie Spiering can be reached at: Charlie.Spiering@gmail.com
Charlie Spiering is a Wyoming native who works in Washington, D.C., where he continues writing about the White House, Congress and national politics. A former writer for Breitbart News, The Washington Examiner and columnist Robert Novak, Spiering frequently returns home to the family farm in Powell to escape the insanity of Washington.