After questionable statement, Harvard University president stays: NPR

NPR’s Juana Summers talks with Harvard constitutional law teacher Laurence People about Claudine Gay’s questionable congressional hearing and the choice to keep her as Harvard’s president.


Harvard University president Claudine Gay will keep her task. The consentaneous choice to have her remain on was revealed today by Harvard’s board. This followed require Gay’s elimination following her remarks at a congressional hearing about the increase of antisemitism on school. Gay and the presidents of 2 other universities came under extreme examination following that hearing. When asked if requiring the genocide of Jews would breach Harvard’s standard procedure, Gay would not offer a yes or no response. Harvard constitutional law scholar Laurence People called her statement reluctant, formulaic and incredibly elusive. However he was amongst numerous professor who rallied behind Gay, advising Harvard to keep its president. When I talked to him earlier today, he offered me his response to this news.

LAURENCE PEOPLE: I was pleased to see that she will stay president. I believe it would have been a genuine error for the university to cave to the specific pressures put upon it from external sources. And I’m delighted that she will be maintained.

SUMMERS: So she keeps her task. However, I imply, what kind of position does this put Claudine Gay in now? Do you believe she runs out the woods?

PEOPLE: Well, I do not believe she runs out the woods by any ways. I believe the only method through this forest is through the trees, and she’s got to plant lots of trees. It’s clear that Harvard has actually refrained from doing as great a task as it must have in having a clear policy that would have made it apparent to anybody that for trainees to require the killing of fellow trainees – the killing of Jews, of Muslims, the killing of Blacks – is not even near to the line – certainly and plainly undesirable. It needs to have been extremely simple for all of the university presidents to address that concern. It was softball, not a got-you. You understand, I was extremely dissatisfied, I need to state, not simply by the president of Harvard, however by the presidents of Penn and MIT. They all depended on certainly horrible legal suggestions, recommending that they must address in a type of hyper-technical manner in which kept all of their alternatives open. That was an error.

SUMMERS: Let’s speak about the politics here. Much of the extreme nationwide reaction originating from this hearing was connected to concerns that originated from Republican politician Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York City. She belongs to Republican management in your house. And because the hearing, Liz Magill, who’s the president of the University of Pennsylvania, was required to resign. Congresswoman Stefanik composed on social networks, one down, 2 to go, in recommendation to the other university leaders who affirmed – Gay and the president of MIT. I wish to ask you, does it fret you that political leaders are trying to affect college for political gain?

PEOPLE: It frets me considerably. One down, 2 to go makes it seem like she’s playing “The Appetite Games.” She’s on the hunt for individuals who do not follow her specific conservative political program – the MAGA program. When you have a previous president who states he would end the Constitution and when you have individuals who are his advocates, his enablers, individuals who either assisted him practically carry out an effective coup and stay in power – when you have those individuals chortling at their success in requiring one university president out of workplace and eagerly anticipating requiring others out, we have a hazardous environment that, as we come close to the 2024 election, where it is actually possible that a totalitarian wannabe will presume power. That’s the time when we need to be especially alert not to let the Stefaniks of the world win.

SUMMERS: I simply wish to go back a bit here due to the fact that, I imply, Harvard and institution of higher learnings throughout the nation have actually been considering problems surrounding race and equity and complimentary speech for several years. And simply last month, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Federal government reported that a bulk of its trainees did not feel comfy revealing their, quote, “authentic views on questionable subjects.” Laurence People, what does this present minute inform us about what sort of complimentary speech is and isn’t acceptable on Harvard’s school in specific?

PEOPLE: Well, it’s clear to me that Harvard requires to do a much better task drawing a difference in between revealing views, nevertheless questionable, and pestering other trainees – whether targeting people or calling entire groups, whether the group be Palestinians or Jews, whether they be gay or straight, Black or white, or any other group – making those individuals feel unwanted and uneasy. It’s clear that far more requirements to be carried out in the structure of the school area – safe areas where individuals understand they can reveal views, nevertheless questionable as long as they do not require the real physical harming of others.

I have actually spoken with trainees that there is a chill in the air in basic, that individuals hesitate to speak their mind due to the fact that they believe they may be ostracized or may cross a line. I do not believe Harvard or any organization that I understand has actually done as great a task as everyone must in preventing that chill and motivating discussion. And the entire society hasn’t done as great a task as we should, actually from the earliest stages of education, in instilling those worths. So we have actually got a great deal of work to do, not just in universities, however throughout education and throughout society.

SUMMERTIMES: That was Laurence People. He’s a constitutional law scholar and teacher at Harvard University. Thank you.

PEOPLE: Thank you.

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