Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Who Knew Elise Stefanik Would Deliver a Kill Shot Into Liberal Academia?

 By Matt Vespa|

AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

She’s gone. The terrorist-sympathizing, Jewish genocide-enabling, and academic fraudster Claudine Gay, who plagiarized her name to reach the top of American academia, is no more. She resigned after more allegations of plagiarism were lobbed against her. Harvard had to have known about these incidents, some of which date back to her days at Stanford. If it wasn’t plagiarism, it was shoddy data

Harvard isn’t some affirmative action test pool. It should be for the elite. It was elite until woke leftism, and authoritarian trends supplanted the tenets of study and critical thinking. It seems apparent that the school knew and overlooked the allegations of academic fraud committed by Gay since these instances of plagiarism have been coming out of the woodwork. 

Gay resigned over these allegations, though she should have been booted after her appalling testimony before Congress when asked whether chants for Jewish genocide constituted harassment and violations of the codes of conduct. Gay, like Sally Kornbluth at MIT and Liz Magill at UPenn, offered a cold, academic answer to a simple question posited by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY).   

Magill was forced to step down after the fallout engulfed the school in a public relations nightmare, along with a $100 million donation. She tried clearing up the controversy with a scripted video that was classic PR crisis mode. It didn’t save her. Gay did the same thing: she made an apology video. She also participated in a Menorah lighting ceremony using a tiki torch, an item made infamous by white nationalists during their Charlottesville rally in 2017. 

Either way, all three women should lose their jobs. We got two of the three. Will Kornbluth suffer a similar fate? Harvard’s faculty rallied around Gay, but the serial plagiarism allegations made her position untenable. The heinous remarks during the House hearing should have sufficed, but this is liberal academia. She survived on one front but could not on the other. I’ll take it. Kornbluth hasn’t made an apology tape. It wasn’t necessary, as MIT’s board stood lockstep behind her following the ladies’ disastrous day on the Hill last December. That doesn’t mean calls for Kornbluth’s termination haven’t been made. 

Who knew that Stefanik would deliver the kill shot into the heart of liberal academia here? This drone strike got two of the three. That’s a success.



Claudine Gay, We Hardly Knew Ye…

By Oliver Wiseman and Bari Weiss | Free Press

Claudine Gay on Harvard’s campus in December 2023. (Andrew Lichtenstein via Getty Images)

Why did Claudine Gay step down yesterday as president of Harvard? In a letter announcing the bombshell decision, Gay wrote that it was in “the best interests of Harvard for me to resign so that our community can navigate this moment of extraordinary challenge with a focus on the institution rather than any individual.” 

She also blamed 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,” Gay wrote in her email Tuesday.

Missing from Gay’s note was some important. . . context

In particular, there was no mention of the twin scandals that have plagued Gay and captured the attention of the country in recent weeks. The first: her handling of antisemitism and free expression on Harvard’s campus since October 7, including her appalling appearance before Congress in December. 

The second: the ever-growing list of plagiarism allegations against Gay. On Monday night, the dogged journalists over at The Washington Free Beacon reported six more charges of plagiarism. That brought the number of allegations against Gay close to 50 and implicated half of her published works in the scandal. The next day, Gay was gone, making her the shortest-serving president in Harvard’s history: the Kevin McCarthy of higher ed. 

Within minutes the crowing began. Major props went to Bill Ackman, the billionaire investor who has relentlessly criticized his alma mater since the attacks of October 7; to Chris Rufo, the Manhattan Institute senior fellow who was early on the story of plagiarism allegations against Gay; and to Free Beacon reporter Aaron Sibarium (more about him in a minute). 

But does Gay’s resignation—and apparently she will remain on the faculty—actually change things? 

Our sense—and recent events have only reinforced it—is that Claudine Gay is only the symptom of a deeper rot, both at Harvard and across higher education more generally.  

One of the people who has been outspoken about that deeper crisis is Jeffrey Flier, who was the dean of Harvard Medical School from 2007 to 2016 and is a member of the Council on Academic Freedom at Harvard, a group founded by Harvard academics last year to fight the free speech crisis on their campus. (Harvard ranks dead last with a score of 0.00 in FIRE’s college free speech rankings.) 

We spoke to Flier hours after Claudine Gay’s resignation. He said he sees the present crisis as a chance for the university to fix itself. “Her departure may have been necessary. But the university needs to do more than appoint a new president,” he explained.

“Before October 7, few people thought fixing problems at Harvard was a really urgent need. I am with a group that wanted real change, but relatively few people were listening. But now there is real opportunity for change,” explains Flier. 

“Will the current moment lead to profound change? More likely than not it won’t. But it will lead to some beneficial change. I am quite confident of that.” 

Flier told us he takes some encouragement from his recent interactions with the board of the famously secretive Harvard Corporation—the group that appointed Gay and oversees the university. As The New York Times recently reported, Flier, along with Steven Pinker (also a member of the Council on Academic Freedom), was invited to dinner with corporation board members.

Flier called the invitation “quite shocking and previously unimaginable” and sees it as a sign that the board understands the scale of the problem they have on their hands. 

He explained that “we had a three-hour completely open conversation in which we were talking about viewpoint diversity, issues with DEI, suppression of speech, people being pushed out of their roles for speech that wasn’t liked by activists and all that.”  

“They listened, and they implied there was very likely going to be some meaningful action,” said Flier.

Let’s hope so. In the meantime, Gay is gone. Now, about that journalist whose reporting led to her downfall. . . 

Free Beacon, take a bow. Their reporting exposed the plagiarism that made Gay’s position untenable. Aaron Sibarium, the Free Beacon reporter whose beat is broadly the capture of woke institutions, is a bulldog. And we mean that in a good way. 

“It’s been an interesting day,” said Sibarium when we spoke yesterday to ask him a couple of questions about his part in Gay’s downfall. 

What was the straw that broke the camel’s back?

AS: I think it was probably a combination of factors: first, our latest reporting, published on Monday, contained some pretty bad examples of plagiarism that were hard to dismiss. Second, Harvard suspected there would be more coming, given the immense scrutiny on Claudine Gay’s record. And third, my sense is that faculty support for her collapsed in the past week and a half, as more examples of plagiarism surfaced and discontent with the Harvard Corporation grew.

And why does this story matter? A skeptical reader may think Harvard will just replace Gay with a similar figure and nothing much will change. Help us persuade that reader that they’re wrong. 

AS: This entire saga may establish a new incentive structure for university decision-makers going forward. If you hire someone who does not meet the highest standards of academic rigor or who applies double standards on things like free speech and DEI, you know that they will be under tremendous scrutiny. You know that if the dirt exists, it will surface. So you have an incentive to be a little more discerning about who you elevate. 

And if you are a university president, you certainly have an incentive to be more careful about political bias. Do you really want half the country rooting for your downfall? Do you really want that target on your back? In the shadow of Claudine Gay’s resignation, institutional neutrality may come to be seen as a safe harbor.