My Mixed Feelings About Claudine Gay's Resignation
Our reactions to events are always arbitrary. Don't hold that against me.
What can feelings be, but mixed? Perhaps “ambivalent” would be a better word to describe it. I don’t have strong feelings about Harvard President Claudine Gay’s resignation, which is not to say she didn’t deserve it. But just because something is the right or just outcome doesn’t mean we need to have a strong instinctive reaction to it.
Democracy and Other Problems is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts, become a free or paid subscriber.
This is also incidentally why whatabout-ist arguments intended to deflect from outrage over Israel-Palestine irritate me: what we feel in response to news is particular to who we are as individuals. There is no accounting for taste, and there is no accounting—up to a point—about opinions. As I’ve said before, most people have at least 1 to 2 legitimately terrible opinions. I’m sure some of you can name mine.
Outrage, like everything in life, is selective. We can’t be angry about everything, so we have to be angry about some things rather than others. What we choose will always be somewhat arbitrary (although, in this case, it no longer is particularly arbitrary since Israel’s war in Gaza has, rather quickly, become one of the most destructive of the 20th century. Don’t take my word for it, here’s the reporting).
So don’t hold it against me that I can’t summon much joy or satisfaction in Harvard’s President’s resignation. She deserves it. Her plagiarism was a pattern. And that’s not really something you want to have in a university president, since it obviously doesn’t send an encouraging message to students who face disciplinary action, sometimes severe, for the kinds of things that Claudine Gay did.