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‘Victory’: Claudine Gay’s Resignation From the Harvard Presidency Comes as a Win for Her Critics

Rep. Elise M. Stefanik '06 (R-N.Y.) took to X to celebrate — and claim credit for — Claudine Gay's resignation from Harvard's presidency.
Rep. Elise M. Stefanik '06 (R-N.Y.) took to X to celebrate — and claim credit for — Claudine Gay's resignation from Harvard's presidency. By Miles J. Herszenhorn
By Madeleine A. Hung and Joyce E. Kim, Crimson Staff Writers

Former Harvard President Claudine Gay’s resignation Tuesday marked a victory for critics of the University who have called for Gay’s removal following a controversial congressional testimony and mounting plagiarism allegations.

Rep. Elise M. Stefanik ’06 (R-N.Y.), conservative activist Christopher F. Rufo, and billionaire hedge fund manager Bill A. Ackman ’88 have emerged as the faces of a campaign to remove Gay and make her a representative of diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in higher education they say are antisemitic and harmful.

Following Gay’s announcement, they took to social media to celebrate — and claim credit for her decision to step down from the presidency.

Stefanik has repeatedly called for Gay’s resignation since October and led the most aggressive questioning of Gay during the Dec. 5 hearing about antisemitism on college campuses — which marked the beginning of the end for the University’s embattled leader.

When pressed before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on whether speech that calls for the genocide of Jews violates Harvard’s policies on bullying and harassment, Gay insisted that it depended on context.

Stefanik was dissatisfied with Gay’s answers, telling her directly multiple times throughout the hearing that she should step down from the presidency.

Gay’s response to Stefanik’s line of questioning also quickly drew backlash on campus and nationwide. Congress opened an investigation into Harvard over concerns of antisemitism on campus, and more than 70 members of Congress — mostly Republicans — signed a letter demanding Gay’s resignation.

Stefanik wrote in a Tuesday afternoon post on Instagram that while Gay’s resignation was “long overdue,” it was also “just the beginning of what will be the greatest scandal of any college or university in history.”

The statement also referenced the ongoing congressional investigation into Harvard, which had recently been expanded to encompass the mounting plagiarism allegations against Gay.

“Our robust Congressional investigation will continue to move forward to expose the rot in our most ‘prestigious’ higher education institutions and deliver accountability to the American people,” Stefanik wrote.

But Stefanik wasn’t the only voice to loudly criticize Gay in the days following the congressional hearing.

Ackman — who donated $26 million to Harvard in 2014 — piled onto the barrage of criticism. Since the University’s initial statement in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, Ackman has repeatedly slammed Gay and her administration in posts on X.

Following Gay’s Dec. 5 congressional testimony, Ackman again took to X, this time calling on Gay — and the two presidents who testified alongside her — to “resign in disgrace.” Former University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill resigned just four days following the hearing.

But the backlash against Gay only continued to grow.

Just five days following her disastrous congressional testimony, Gay was hit with allegations of plagiarism.

In a Substack post, Rufo and journalist Christopher Brunet alleged that Gay had committed plagiarism in four of her academic works across 24 years, including her 1997 Ph.D. dissertation at Harvard.

Rufo’s post and other allegations by the Washington Free Beacon emerged as the Harvard Corporation — the University’s highest governing body with the power to pressure the president to resign — met to discuss the leadership crisis facing Harvard. Rufo said in a Dec. 10 post on X that he timed his release of the allegations to have the “maximum impact” on Gay’s presidency.

Less than one month after the Corporation announced its unanimous support for Gay following a meeting of the board, as further allegations of plagiarism piled up against the embattled then-president, she stepped down from the University’s top post.

Minutes after Gay’s resignation was announced, Rufo took to X to celebrate, writing that he was “glad she’s gone.”

“Today, we celebrate victory,” Rufo wrote on X Tuesday. “Tomorrow, we get back to the fight. We must not stop until we have abolished DEI ideology from every institution in America.”

In a separate post on X, Rufo also reiterated unsubstantiated claims that the Corporation selected Gay to lead Harvard on the basis of her identity as a Black woman. Many have criticized Rufo’s allegations and denounced them as racist, pointing to Gay’s five-year tenure as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and her acclaimed scholarly work.

“They cannot bear to confront the truth: Gay was not qualified, they made a bad decision in hiring her, and their commitment to race over merit has been a disaster,” Rufo wrote in a Tuesday post on X.

In a statement announcing her decision to step down, Gay wrote that she was “subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus” as calls for her resignation grew over the past three months.

Neither Gay nor a Harvard spokesperson immediately responded to a request for comment Wednesday morning.

In their celebratory social media posts, Rufo and Stefanik both took credit for Gay’s departure from the presidency.

Rufo wrote in another Tuesday post on X that his “unorthodox” methods “have proven successful at exposing corruption, changing public opinion, and moving institutions.”

Stefanik was more blunt in her statement the same day.

“I will always deliver results,” she wrote.

—Staff writer Madeleine A. Hung can be reached at

—Staff writer Joyce E. Kim can be reached at Follow her on X at @joycekim324.

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