Harvard’s Claudine Gay resignation shows ‘final corruption of most elite institutions,’ says William Bennett

Harvard’s Claudine Gay resignation shows ‘final corruption of most elite institutions,’ says William Bennett

FIRST ON FOX — Harvard University President Claudine Gay resigned on Tuesday — marking a cataclysmic failure of the leftist orthodoxy that has consumed higher education in recent decades, said two leading academics. 

“What we see here is an example of the final corruption of our most elite institutions,” former U.S. Department of Education Secretary William Bennett told Fox News Digital.

The damage to America’s oldest, and long its most prestigious university, could have ripple effects on wider society, Bennett also indicated.


“The American people do not need more discouragement toward the institutions they once looked up to,” he said. 

Bennett studied at Harvard Law School and taught at the university — but he is now pessimistic about the institution’s ability to refurbish its reputation. 

William Bennett, former education secretary, believes the Claudine Gay scandal at Harvard University could have a damaging ripple effect on wider American society, he told Fox News Digital on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

“Can Harvard recover? Yes. Will it recover? No. These problems are too ingrained,” he said.

Gay was hired in 2022 amid great fanfare as the first Black woman to serve as Harvard president. Yet her resume fell far short of the traditional accomplishments of the position, critics assert.

The Ivy League school’s newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, indicated that Gay’s resignation will bring an end to the shortest Harvard presidency in the university’s history. 

“Can Harvard recover? Yes. Will it recover? No. These problems are too ingrained.” — William Bennett to Fox News Digital

“We once expected the president of Harvard to be the leading academic in the nation,” Victor Davis Hanson, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, told Fox News Digital in an interview last week, before Gay resigned. 

Hanson posted on X on Tuesday, following the announcement, “To paraphrase Churchill, Harvard had an initial choice between a scandal and dishonor. It chose dishonor and now it will have scandal.”

Harvard President Claudine Gay

Claudine Gay testified before Congress in December 2023 over antisemitism on the college campus — which she refused to condemn.  (Getty Images)

Bennett agreed that the president of Harvard “used to be the most respected position in the country.”

Gay became the focus of nationwide controversy in December when she refused to condemn antisemitism on the Harvard campus when she was questioned before Congress. 


“This is a shame,” said Bennett. “She equivocated on a question that had a clear answer and then we found nearly 50 cases of plagiarism.”

In the spotlight that followed, it was revealed that Gay had a limited record of academic achievement and had been hired despite publishing papers that liberally copied from the work of others.

Teddy Roosevelt

President Theodore Roosevelt was told, “I will get you the president,” when trying to reach Harvard’s top officer Charles Eliot, in a story relayed by William Bennett that speaks to the prestige once enjoyed by the university.  (Getty Images)

Bennett relayed an anecdote speaking to the power and prestige once enjoyed by the position. 

“There is a story that President [Theodore] Roosevelt would call Harvard when he wanted to speak to Charles Eliot,” the school’s president, said Bennett. 

“The secretary would answer the phone and say ‘Hold on, Mr. Roosevelt. I will get you the president.’”

“We once expected the president of Harvard to be the leading academic in the nation.” — Victor Davis Hanson to Fox News Digital

The secretary was reminding the commander-in-chief of the United States, Bennett said, of just “who he was asking for.”

In the case of Gay, Harvard initially defended her even as charges of plagiarism mounted — euphemistically referring to her actions as “duplicative language.” In Dr. Gay’s 1997 doctoral dissertation, Harvard said it found two examples of “duplicative language without appropriate attribution,” as Fox News Digital earlier reported.

Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson on Fox News. “She was an affirmative action hire,” he said last week of Claudine Gay, who just resigned from Harvard University.  (Fox News)

‘Affirmative action hire’ 

Both Bennett and Hanson said that Gay was hired based upon “diversity, equity and including” (DEI) considerations that today have replaced meritocracy in education and elsewhere in society. 

“She was an affirmative action hire,” Hanson said last week. “We’ve lost the tradition that in America anybody of any class, any race or any ideology will be judged in the marketplace of ideas for their performance.”


He added on Tuesday on X, “If Harvard appoints as its permanent president another candidate on the basis of DEI without a record of substantial scholarship, intellectual probity, recognized teaching, and administrative excellence, then the university will only reinforce the now growing consensus that it has abandoned even the veneer of meritocracy.”

Bennett blamed Gay’s hire on “the crazy race consciousness of the university now. Special consideration is given to race both in the admission process and in hiring, and even in putting in their presiding officer.”

Harvard protest trucks

Protest trucks demanding that Claudine Gay be fired from Harvard were circling the Ivy League campus recently.  (Fox News Digital)

“We’re not getting people based on merit anymore, and it’s permeating all of society,” said Bennett.


It appears the Harvard University board has continued to focus on race, even in accepting Gay’s resignation.

“The question I always get asked by parents is ‘Is Harvard worth it?’ The answer is no, I don’t think it is anymore.” — William Bennett

“While some of this has played out in the public domain, much of it has taken the form of repugnant and in some cases racist vitriol directed at her through disgraceful emails and phone calls,” the board statement read, in part. 

Claudine Gay and William Bennett

Claudine Gay, left, resigned as president of Harvard University on Tuesday, Jan. 2, in the wake of controversies that sullied the reputation of America’s oldest and one of its most prestigious university. Former U.S. Department of Education Secretary William Bennett, right, told Fox News Digital it was “an example of the final corruption of our most elite institutions.” (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images; Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Bennett said he’s “greatly disappointed and embarrassed by what [Harvard has] become. It’s not the Harvard that I went to.” 

He added, “The question I always get asked by parents is, ‘Is Harvard worth it?’ The answer is no, I don’t think it is anymore. The luster Harvard once enjoyed is now coming off.”


In a letter to members of the Harvard community, Gay said she was stepping down as president — but that she would return to the Harvard faculty despite the plagiarism allegations against her. 

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