““The campaign against me was about more than one university and one leader. This was merely a single skirmish in a broader war to unravel public faith in pillars of American society.””
In her op-ed, Gay warned of bad-faith efforts to delegitimize American institutions, and said she stepped down to “deny demagogues the opportunity to further weaponize my presidency in their campaign to undermine the ideals animating Harvard since its founding: excellence, openness, independence, truth.”
Gay had faced allegations of plagiarism and was criticized for her testimony at a congressional hearing in which she gave unsatisfactory answers to questions about whether calls for “the genocide of Jews” violated Harvard’s code of conduct.
Last July, Gay became the first Black president of Harvard, and only its second female president.
In the op-ed, Gay admitted she made mistakes, but defended her academic record and research, and said she fell into “a well-laid trap” at the congressional hearing.
After being targeted by conservative activists, Gay said she faced attacks on her character and intelligence, death threats and has been “called the N-word more times than I care to count.”
She warned she will not be the last target.
“Trusted institutions of all types — from public health agencies to news organizations — will continue to fall victim to coordinated attempts to undermine their legitimacy and ruin their leaders’ credibility,” Gay wrote. “For the opportunists driving cynicism about our institutions, no single victory or toppled leader exhausts their zeal.”
In closing, she urged that universities fight to maintain their independence in the face of “the loudest and most extreme voices in our culture.”
“College campuses in our country must remain places where students can learn, share and grow together, not spaces where proxy battles and political grandstanding take root,” she said.