Posted on December 21, 2023

Claudine Gay’s DEI Empire

Christopher Rufo, City Journal, December 18, 2023

Harvard president Claudine Gay has been embroiled in controversy for minimizing Hamas terrorism and plagiarizing material in her academic work on race. Both scandals have discredited her presidency, but neither should come as a surprise. Throughout Gay’s career at Harvard—as professor, dean, and president—racialist ideology has driven her scholarship, administrative priorities, and rise through the institution.

Over the course of her career, Gay quietly built a “diversity” empire that influenced every facet of university life. Between 2018 and the summer of 2023, as the dean of the largest faculty on campus, Gay oversaw the university’s racially discriminatory admissions program, which the Supreme Court found unconstitutional. {snip}

While affirmative action has been a longstanding practice at Harvard, other programs led by Gay were new. Following the death of George Floyd in 2020, Gay commissioned a Task Force on Visual Culture and Signage, which released a series of recommendations the following year for engaging in the “historical reckoning with racial injustice.” The recommendations included a mandate to change “spaces whose visual culture is dominated by homogenous portraiture of white men.” In particular, the report maintained, administrators should “refresh” the walls of Annenberg Hall, which “prominently display a series of 23 portraits, none of [which] depict women, and all but three of [which] depict white men.” {snip}

In 2022, Gay implemented an initiative at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for “denaming” any “space, program, or other entity” deemed racist by the faculty and administration. According to the report, commissioned by then-president Lawrence Bacow, these decisions would be “based on the perception that a namesake’s actions or beliefs were ‘abhorrent’ in the context of current values.” In other words, Harvard would use the standards of present-day social-justice activism to pass judgment on men who lived hundreds of years prior—at best, an ahistorical and deeply ambiguous method. As part of this project, Gay sent an email to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences community soliciting “requests for denaming,” promising to address the situation “through the lens of reckoning.” Since then, the university has grappled with denaming multiple buildings, including Winthrop House, named after John Winthrop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and his great grandson, also John Winthrop, a Harvard professor and president.

{snip} Harvard’s DEI administrators encourage students to internalize the basic narrative of critical race theory: America is a nation defined by “systemic racism,” “police brutality,” “white supremacist violence,” and the “weaponization of whiteness.” In another resource, students were invited to “unpack” their “white privilege” and “male privilege,” and to consider their “white fragility,” which stems from “the privilege that accrues to white people living in a society that protects and insulates them from race-based stress.”