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Barack Obama backed Harvard’s Claudine Gay amid antisemitism controversy: Report

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Harvard President Claudine Gay faced a storm of criticism after her testimony on antisemitism before Congress, but she had a powerful ally in her corner, former US President Barack Obama.

Report claims Obama stands by Harvard President Caludine Gay amid criticism and plagiarism accusations(AFP/AP)
Report claims Obama stands by Harvard President Caludine Gay amid criticism and plagiarism accusations(AFP/AP)

According to Jewish Insider on Tuesday, Obama, who graduated from Harvard, privately advocated for Gay after she testified about the threats that Jewish students face on the prestigious campus.

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The outlet stated that Obama’s involvement implied that “people were being asked to close ranks to keep the broader administration stable—including its composition.”

Gay’s testimony in early December sparked outrage when she was questioned by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce about whether calling for the extermination of Jews on campus breached the university’s policies on bullying and harassment. She said that the school would only react to such conduct depending on the “context”, which drew condemnation from social media users and the White House.

ALSO READ| Majority of Americans believe Sally Kornbluth and Claudine Gay should resign after Capitol Hill hearing: Poll

Gay apologized after the hearing and received the support of the fellows of the Harvard Corporation, the university’s top governing body, in a statement on Dec. 12. The statement also addressed the accusations of plagiarism that had been raised against Gay’s academic work in October.

On Tuesday, the Washington Free Beacon reported that Stacey Springs, Harvard’s research integrity officer, had received a document with more than 40 allegations of plagiarism against Gay’s academic work, ranging from missing quotation marks to copying entire paragraphs.

House committee seeks answers from Harvard

The Harvard Corporation issued a summary of a review on Wednesday evening, stating that Gay would ask for three corrections from Harvard’s Office of the Provost for her 1997 Ph.D. dissertation, as reported by The Harvard Crimson.

The review also found two more cases of “duplicative language without appropriate attribution” in Gay’s work. On the same day, Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the chairwoman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, sent a letter to Penny Pritzker, the senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation, asking for more details about how the university dealt with the plagiarism allegations against Gay and “the unequal application of Harvard’s Honor Code.”

Pritzker, a former Obama administration official and a Chicago hotel billionaire who gave $100 million to Harvard last month, was in the spotlight because of the controversy.

ALSO READ| Claudine Gay to stay on as Harvard president, but her tenure may be brief on the back of plagiarism charge

Pritzker had led the search committee that appointed Gay as president in December last year, praising her as a “remarkable leader who is profoundly devoted to sustaining and enhancing Harvard’s academic excellence” at the time.

Before she signed the Dec. 12 statement with 11 other board members, Pritzker avoided answering questions from the school newspaper reporters about whether she thought Gay should resign. Gay said then that she had Pritzker’s “full support.”

Jewish Insider cited “[Pritzker] has no intention of going down with the ship.”

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