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Interim Harvard President Alan Garber ’76 Urges Campus Unity Amid ‘Painful and Disorienting Time’

Harvard interim President Alan M. Garber '76 said Claudine Gay's surprise resignation last week "added a deep sense of loss" in his first University-wide message since assuming the presidency.
Harvard interim President Alan M. Garber '76 said Claudine Gay's surprise resignation last week "added a deep sense of loss" in his first University-wide message since assuming the presidency. By Timothy R. O'Meara
By Emma H. Haidar and Cam E. Kettles, Crimson Staff Writers

Less than one week after Claudine Gay stepped down as president, Harvard’s interim leader Alan M. Garber ’76 expressed sorrow over her resignation and urged affiliates to work together to address divisions on campus in a University-wide message on Monday, his first since assuming office.

“We have been through an extraordinarily painful and disorienting time for Harvard,” Garber wrote. “Since I first arrived here as an undergraduate in 1973, I cannot recall a period of comparable tension on our campus and across our community.”

“It’s crucial that we bridge the fissures that have weakened our sense of community and, through our words and deeds, affirm the immense worth of what we do here, notwithstanding our shortcomings,” he added.

Garber — who previously served as University provost for 12 years — became president last Tuesday following Gay’s resignation. The last months of Gay’s tenure as president, the shortest in the University’s history, were consumed by backlash to the University’s handling of antisemitism on campus and allegations of plagiarism in Gay’s scholarly work.

As president, Garber’s first major task will be steering the University out of its ongoing leadership crisis, even as bitter divisions remain on campus and Congress continues to investigate Harvard’s response to antisemitism and its handling of plagiarism allegations against Gay.

Garber, who is Jewish, was among the first within Harvard’s administration to publicly express regret over the University’s initial statement on the war in Israel and Gaza in early November.

In his Monday email, Garber alluded to the growing scrutiny institutions of higher education are facing from external critics, writing that Harvard has been “subjected to an unrelenting focus on fault lines that divide us.”

The Harvard Corporation — the University’s highest governing body — announced Garber’s presidency in a Jan. 2 email to affiliates and said the next presidential search process would begin “in due course.”

“We are fortunate to have someone of Alan’s broad and deep experience, incisive judgment, collaborative style, and extraordinary institutional knowledge to carry forward key priorities and to guide the university through this interim period,” the Corporation wrote.

In his Monday email, Garber also addressed Gay’s surprise resignation after just one full semester in office.

He wrote that her decision to step down amid the controversy “added a deep sense of loss” on Harvard’s campus.

Garber also reaffirmed his commitment to the University while acknowledging the extraordinary crisis that led to his appointment as Harvard’s interim leader.

“Although I regret the circumstances that have me writing to you as your interim president, please know that I will serve with a dedication to the Harvard I know and cherish” he wrote.

—Staff writer Emma H. Haidar can be reached at Follow her on X @HaidarEmma.

—Staff writer Cam E. Kettles can be reached at Follow her on X @cam_kettles or on Threads @camkettles.

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