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Following National Criticism, Harvard President Gay Condemns Hamas, Distances University from Student Groups

University President Claudine Gay condemned Hamas' invasion of Israel in a follow-up statement Tuesday morning amid national and campus backlash.
University President Claudine Gay condemned Hamas' invasion of Israel in a follow-up statement Tuesday morning amid national and campus backlash. By Julian J. Giordano
By Miles J. Herszenhorn and Claire Yuan, Crimson Staff Writers

Updated: October 10, 2023, at 7:13 p.m.

Amid fierce national backlash, Harvard President Claudine Gay forcefully condemned the Hamas attack on Israel and distanced the University from a group of student organizations who signed onto a statement that called Israel “entirely responsible” for the ongoing violence in the region.

Gay wrote in a statement to The Crimson Tuesday morning that “while our students have the right to speak for themselves, no student group — not even 30 student groups — speaks for Harvard University or its leadership.”

The statement came less than 16 hours after Gay and 17 other senior administrators released the University’s first public statement about the war in Israel and Gaza in an email to Harvard affiliates Monday evening.

Gay’s administration had come under fire from a wide array of figures over the weekend, first for its lack of response and then for failing to forcefully condemn Hamas or antisemitism broadly in the University’s initial statement — which contained no reference to the letter by the Palestine Solidarity Committee.

A representative for the Palestine Solidarity Committee did not respond to multiple requests for comment Tuesday.

Gay’s follow-up statement on Tuesday also contained a forceful condemnation of Hamas after some Harvard affiliates criticized the University’s statement on Monday for failing to denounce the group directly.

“As the events of recent days continue to reverberate, let there be no doubt that I condemn the terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Hamas,” Gay wrote. “Such inhumanity is abhorrent, whatever one’s individual views of the origins of longstanding conflicts in the region.”

Among the University’s fiercest critics was one of Gay’s own predecessors in the role, former Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers.

“The silence from Harvard’s leadership, so far, coupled with a vocal and widely reported student groups’ statement blaming Israel solely, has allowed Harvard to appear at best neutral towards acts of terror against the Jewish state of Israel,” Summers wrote in a post on X Monday morning.

But even after the University broke its silence Monday evening, Summers continued to criticize Harvard over its statement.

"The delayed @Harvard leadership statement fails to meet the needs of the moment,” Summers wrote in a post on X on Tuesday before Gay released her follow-up statement later that morning. "Why can’t we give reassurance that the University stands squarely against Hamas terror to frightened students when 35 groups of their fellow students appear to be blaming all the violence on Israel?”

Gay concluded her follow-up statement Tuesday with a call for mutual respect and understanding on Harvard’s campus.

“We will all be well served in such a difficult moment by rhetoric that aims to illuminate and not inflame,” Gay added. “And I appeal to all of us in this community of learning to keep this in mind as our conversations continue.”

​​—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at miles.herszenhorn@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @mherszenhorn or on Threads @mileshersz.

—Staff writer Claire Yuan can be reached at claire.yuan@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @claireyuan33.

Editor’s Note: Readers should note that premoderation has been turned on for online commenting on this article out of concerns for student safety.

—Cara J. Chang, President

—Brandon L. Kingdollar, Managing Editor

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