She admits to having made mistakes, but Claudine Gay, the now ex-president of the prestigious Harvard University in the United States, was keen to point out, Wednesday January 3, the day after her resignation, that she had been the target of continued denigration , in a heavy context linked to the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

“Those who have campaigned tirelessly to oust me since the fall have often used lies and ad hominem insults, not reasoned arguments,” writes, in an editorial published by the New York Times, the academic who left his post after accusations of plagiarism, but especially criticism linked to his responses during a parliamentary hearing on the fight against anti-Semitism on American campuses.

Since the bloody attack by Hamas in Israel on October 7, followed by devastating bombings by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip, the conflict has unleashed passions in the most renowned American universities.

On December 5, in a tense atmosphere, Claudine Gay and her counterparts from the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) answered questions from parliamentarians for five hours.

When Republican elected official Elise Stefanik asked whether “calling for the genocide of the Jews violated the rules on harassment at Harvard, yes or no? », Claudine Gay replied: “It can, depending on the context”, before adding: “If it is directed against a person”. His response and that of his counterparts, visibly anxious not to call into question the sacrosanct right to freedom of expression, caused an outcry even at the White House.

“What just happened at Harvard is beyond me.”

“Yes, I made mistakes. In my initial response to the atrocities of October 7, I should have stated more forcefully what all people of good conscience know: Hamas is a terrorist organization that seeks to eradicate the Jewish state,” Ms. Gay said in this column titled “What just happened at Harvard is beyond me”, arguing that she then fell into “a well-set trap” during her hearing before Congress.

More than 70 parliamentarians, including two Democrats, as well as former students and renowned donors, then called for Ms. Gay’s departure. The president, however, received the support of the educational community and was retained in her position in mid-December, before finally making the decision to leave her post on Tuesday.

The president of the University of Pennsylvania, Elizabeth Magill, resigned just four days after her hearing before Congress.

“The campaign against me went beyond a single university and a single leader. “This was barely a skirmish in a broader war to undermine public confidence in the pillars of American society,” Ms. Gay offers a “warning.”

“Campaigns of this type often begin with attacks on education and expertise, because these are the tools that best enable communities to see through propaganda,” she explains. “Trusted institutions of all types – from public health agencies to news outlets – will continue to be victims of coordinated attempts to undermine their legitimacy and ruin the credibility of their leaders,” warns this political science professor who had become , in July 2023, the first black president of the famous American university located near Boston.

Racist messages

“It does not escape me that I constitute an ideal canvas to project all the concerns about the generational and demographic changes taking place on American campuses: a black woman chosen to lead a renowned institution,” she also says. , explaining that he had received numerous messages of a racist nature.

Following the congressional hearing, Gay’s academic career came under intense scrutiny from conservative activists who uncovered several instances of alleged plagiarism in her 1997 doctoral dissertation. she acknowledges attribution errors in some of her writings, she claims to have “never misrepresented the results of [her] research and [have] never claimed credit for the research of others.”