Amid backlash, Claudine Gay responded to the uproar with a statement. (File)
Harvard president Claudine Gay has publicly apologised for her response during a congressional hearing on antisemitism. When asked about whether calls for "genocide" against Jews would violate Harvard's code of conduct, she did not provide a direct answer, stating that it depended on the "context."
“I am sorry,” Ms Gay said in an interview published in The Harvard Crimson on Thursday. “When words amplify distress and pain, I don't know how you could feel anything but regret.”
Claudine Gay added that she should have, in that moment, returned to the guiding truth, that calls for violence against Jewish community have no place at Harvard, and will never go unchallenged. “Substantively, I failed to convey what is my truth”.
On Tuesday, Claudine Gay, along with President Liz Magill from UPenn and Sally Kornbluth from MIT, faced criticism for their responses during a five-hour congressional hearing. Republican congresswoman Elise Stefanik questioned Ms Gay about Harvard's stance on calling for the genocide of Jews, asking if it violated the university's rules on bullying and harassment. Responding, Gay said, "It can be, depending on the context."
Stefanik urged Gay for a clear yes or no answer, but she emphasised that antisemitic speech crossing into behaviour constituting bullying, harassment, or intimidation is considered actionable conduct, and Harvard takes appropriate action in such cases.
Stefanik responded, “So the answer is yes, that calling for the genocide of Jews violates Harvard's code of conduct, correct?” Gay replied, “Again, it depends on the context.”
Stefanik fired back that it didn't depend on the context, adding the answer was yes, and that's the reason Gay should resign. "These are unacceptable answers across the board."
Amid the escalating backlash, Gay responded to the uproar on Wednesday. The statement said, "There were some who had confused their right to free expression with the idea that Harvard would condone calls for violence against Jewish students. Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account," she concluded.
Liz Magill also later revised her stance, acknowledging that a call for the genocide of Jewish people should be considered harassment or intimidation, according to AP. She also advocated for a review of Penn's policies, stating that while they had long been guided by the US Constitution, they needed to be "clarified and evaluated."