Claudine Gay’s firing from Harvard is being touted as a DEI failure, but that’s hardly the case

The completed Unity in Diversity mural at 1135 Prospect St.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Claudine Gay’s firing from Harvard is being touted as a DEI failure, but that’s hardly the case

Opinion, Education

Robin Abcarian

January 7, 2024

Let’s be honest.

Conservatives did not come after former Harvard President Claudine Gay for plagiarizing some of her academic research. They didn’t come after her because she gave Congress a morally indefensible answer to the question of whether calls for genocide of Jews on campus violated speech codes.

They came after her because she represented what her right-wing critics say are the crimes of the diversity, equality and inclusion movement, and because the existence of


is insulting to those who believe we live in a meritocracy where everyone starts on a level playing field and excellence floats to the top. Basically, they decided she had to go and then mounted a campaign against her.

While her firing is a victory, it’s just the beginning, Christopher Rufo, the conservative activist who led the charge against Gay, wrote in the Wall Street Journal. Rufo also happens to be the architect of the false panic over critical race theory. If America wants to reform its academic institutions, he wrote, the symbolic battle for Harvard’s presidency must evolve into a deeper institutional struggle.

Perhaps Gay, despite thinner academic credentials than past Harvard presidents, would have been a superlative president, a phenomenal fundraiser, a visionary.


leader. We will never know.

She is now among the conservative ideologues trying to undo what they see as left-wing ideological excesses pervading American universities.

TWO DOWN,” New York MAGA Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik trumpeted.


calculated questions about whether students were drafted for the genocide of Jews in the aftermath of the horrific 19-10-2013. 7 Hamas attack in Israel violated university speech rules and also led to the resignation of


President of the University of Pennsylvania

M. Elizabeth Magill


This is yet another salvo in the conservative war against the woke forces of higher education. The campaign against me was about more than one university and one leader, Gay wrote last week

[Jan. 3]

in an essay from the New York Times. For the opportunists driving cynicism about our institutions, no victory or top leader will exhaust their zeal.

She’s absolutely right. According to the Wall Street Journal, the gay impeachment has emboldened Republican lawmakers and their conservative allies, who believe they have new momentum and a new playbook to reverse what they see as the progressive takeover of American education.

That effort was already well underway. Nearly half of states have proposed or passed laws banning DEI initiatives on public campuses.

Last year, Republican presidential candidate and MAGA stuntman Gov. Ron DeSantis orchestrated a high-profile takeover of the public New College of Florida, a liberal arts bastion with a large LGBTQ+ population. In: athletics. From: gender studies. The diversity office was eliminated. (Not coincidentally, Rufo is one of the newly appointed members of the school council.)

Bill Ackman, the billionaire investor and Harvard alum who pushed for Gays’ ouster, demanded last week

[Jan. 2]

that the members of the Harvard administration who hired her should resign and that the university’s DEI office be closed and its staff laid off.

Having a darker skin color, a less common sexual identity, and/or being a woman does not necessarily mean that someone is oppressed or even disadvantaged. Ackman wrote in a 4,000-word statement posted on X.

He makes some good points in his long thread among them that a climate of fear on campuses has led to self-censorship, that microaggressions are treated as hate speech, and that campus speakers and teachers with unapproved views are shouted down, shunned, and canceled.

But Ackman’s statement also illustrates the peculiar ignorance of privileged people who refuse to acknowledge that history did not begin last week or last year, or that individuals are subject to social and political systems far beyond their control.

And yes, while the color of your skin, your gender or sexual orientation does not

you automatically lead to a life of oppression and poverty. That argument is a straw man. People who possess these qualities have in fact been oppressed and disadvantaged and in many cases still are. If you acknowledge that, you won’t wake up a bit. It means you’ve paid attention to American history.

I’ve spent a lot of time on college campuses over the past decade, and it’s clear to me that one of the most valuable aspects of diversity has taken a back seat to political correctness, which is tragic. A few years ago I had conversations with students at UC Berkeley,

the birthplace of the free speech movement

who argued that speakers like the then popular conservative contrarian Milos Yiannopoulos should not be banned.

In the Washington Post last month, Harvard professor Danielle Allen, a gay contemporary who teaches political philosophy, ethics and public policy, wrote about her experiences balancing competing values ​​on campus.


As a proponent of DEI, she also reasonably believes it needs reform.

We have focused so much on academic freedom and freedom of expression, she wrote, that we have failed to set standards for a culture of mutual respect.

This may seem like a counterintuitive view from a liberal scholar who co-chaired Harvard’s Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging, which produced an 82-page blueprint

focusing on ways to promote inclusivity and mutual respect among very different constituencies. But upon further investigation, that is not the case at all.

Allen is a realist: across the country, DEI bureaucracies have been responsible for countless attacks on common sense. Some mandatory diversity training initiatives come to mind, but the values ​​of lowercase inclusion and lowercase d-diversity remain fundamental to a healthy democracy.

They certainly do, and despite the best efforts of people like Rufo and DeSantis, they always will.



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