Meet Claudine Gay, Harvard University's first black president
Harvard University announced Claudine Gay, dean of the Arts and Science Faculty at the institute and a democracy scholar, as its new president on Thursday. With this, Gay created history and became the first African American to be appointed to the post at the prestigious university. The 52-year-old is also the second woman elected to head the school in the city of Cambridge.
Gay to replace outgoing Lawrence Bacow
Gay is set to replace the current president Lawrence Bacow, who is stepping down as he wants to spend more time with family. Harvard stated that Gay, a Haitian immigrant's daughter, will take charge next year on July 1 as the university's 30th president. In 2018, Gay took charge of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences and helped pull through the difficult pandemic period.
Reaction to her appointment
Penny Pritzker, Harvard's presidential search committee chairperson, told the news agency AFP, "Claudine is a remarkable leader who is profoundly devoted to sustaining and enhancing Harvard's academic excellence." Fifty-two-year-old Gay, while reacting to the announcement of her appointment, said, "Today, we are in a moment of remarkable and accelerating change -- socially, politically, economically, and technologically."
Significance of Gay's appointment
Gay is regarded as one of the leading voices on the problems of American political participation. One key issue raised by her is how a range of economic and social factors shape political opinions and voting. Gay is also the founding chairperson of the university's Inequality in America Initiative. It analyzes the effects of deprivation on educational opportunity, child poverty, and American inequality globally.
Women now outnumber men
With the appointment of Gay, females will now outnumber males as chiefs of all eight Ivy League academies. In 2022, the University of Pennsylvania and Dartmouth also appointed women heads, joining Brown and Cornell. Notably, Drew Faust was the first female president at Harvard.
One of the most significant in American higher education: Cole
Historian of race and college presidents at the University of California, Eddie R. Cole, said that Gay would make decisions that may impact the local, federal, and state levels. "At a time when everyone continues to look at Harvard, this presidential hire will arguably be one of the most significant in American higher education for years to come," Cole told the news agency AP.
We don't exist outside of society: Gay
"The idea of the 'ivory tower' — that is the past, not the future of academia. We don't exist outside of society, but as part of it," Gay was quoted as saying by the media during her speech. "That means that Harvard has a duty to lean in, engage, and to be of service to the world," the new Harvard University president added.
Gay's first big challenge
Next July, the university will face a Supreme Court judgment that might force it to alter its decade-old admissions processes. Suits have been filed against the University of North Carolina and Harvard, challenging their affirmative action policies. That guideline arose from the 1960s Civil Rights Movement to help manage the legacy of bias in higher education against the African American community.