Harvard’s embattled president resigned on Tuesday, but it would be a mistake to think that the school’s or higher education’s troubles are over.
Harvard President Claudine Gay’s disastrous testimony and serial, blatant plagiarism were certainly good reasons to give her the boot. The Harvard Corporation Board, which decides who will be president of the school, never took that route.
Instead, Gay bowed out on her own and wrote a letter demonstrating no contrition for her embarrassing Dec. 5 Congressional testimony about antisemitism on college campuses. She even insinuated that the reason she was getting criticized was racism.
“It has been distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigor – two bedrock values that are fundamental to who I am—and frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus,” she wrote in her resignation statement.
Gay completely dodged the serious accusations made against her, in particular the inexcusable plagiarism that seems to be a hallmark of her career.
The widespread plagiarism issue is even more impressive when you consider that Gay also has a remarkably thin academic record in general. She’s published 10 journal articles and no books in two decades.
Apparently, pointing out that someone with such a dubious academic record shouldn’t be leading one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world is an example of “racial animus.”
So why was Gay made the president of Harvard to begin with and why did she have such firm support at the school? The answer is that she was brought in to demonstrate and double down on the school’s absolute commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
As journalist Christopher Rufo wrote, Gay built a “DEI empire” at Harvard even before becoming the president of the school. She oversaw the school’s racially discriminatory admissions program. She created a task force for renaming buildings and carrying out the cultural revolution in the wake of the “racial reckoning” of 2020.
She was there to ensure that the entire bureaucratic apparatus of the school was firmly committed to promoting DEI to the exclusion of almost anything else.
Despite the Supreme Court’s invalidation of the school’s racist admissions process, that bureaucracy is still in place, still carrying out Gay’s initiatives whether she is running them or not.
Don’t forget, it’s DEI ideology that created the storm of criticism to begin with. It’s an ideology that ultimately boils the world down into a collective struggle between oppressors and oppressed, where social justice means ultimately overturning Western notions of individual justice, responsibility, and right and wrong.
After the Hamas massacre of Israelis on Oct. 7 became clear that the ideology of DEI excused open-season hatred toward Jews, Israel, and the West. Gay and other college presidents tried to dodge that reality at the antisemitism hearing. After all, most Americans actually do find that simply hating people for what they are to be abhorrent.
But even in their attempt to gloss over the attitudes of the Left’s angry activist class, they couldn’t fully spin this into the usual narrative that the problem is “white supremacy” and America’s history of systemic racism and bigotry. The hate spewing from their supporters was too blatant this time.
The DEI mask has slipped.
What’s been revealed is an entire elite ecosystem dedicated to its ideological prerogatives. When White House Press Secretary Karine Jean Pierre said on Tuesday that President Joe Biden has “always, always put equity at the center of every policy he’s put forward,” this is what she’s referring to.
So the end of Gay’s short-lived tenure as head of America’s oldest university is the beginning, not the conclusion of the problems facing Harvard and our nation’s elite schools.
The problem primarily being that our elite universities and institutions have turned away from the core functions they were founded on.
No longer are they committed to creating educated and patriotic leaders who seek the truth and strengthen their nation’s commitment to the Constitution and a free society.
That was the vision of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and the other men they have been eagerly tearing down, in many cases literally.
They’ve instead been commandeered for the purpose of reproducing an ideologically conformist ruling class that carries out the political projects of the Left in academia, business, and government.
They’ve built up an enormous, well-funded—publicly funded—apparatus that carries out the agenda no matter who is in charge.
The donor exodus can’t happen soon enough, and neither can the democratic pressure on these schools to reform. The idea of viewpoint diversity at Harvard or any other Ivy League school is a farce. The problem has gotten worse over the past half century, not better. Gay’s departure changes nothing on that front. She isn’t even leaving the school, just going back to being another member of the faculty.
The bottom line is that the DEI regime won’t go down without a struggle, and it’s willing to bring down the whole system when threatened. This isn’t just a matter of money or who holds what position, it’s a matter of power and who decides what the American people think and are allowed to do or not do.
They want cultural revolution, nothing less.
The institutions won’t reform themselves. This problem can only be solved by the American people. We have a lot of work to do.
Jarrett Stepman is a Daily Signal columnist and the author of “The War on History: The Conspiracy to Rewrite America’s Past” (Regnery Gateway, 2019).