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Harvard names Claudine Gay its first black female president

The social scientist and daughter of Haitian immigrants says that the university must “commit itself and be at the service of the world.”

Harvard University has named Claudine Gay, a social scientist and college dean, as its next president, making her the first black person and the second woman to lead the prestigious academic institution.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Ivy League school announced Thursday that the Harvard Corporation, the university’s main governing board, has selected Gay to serve as its 30th president effective July 1.

She will replace Lawrence Bacow, who had guided the university through the COVID-19 pandemic and this year announced his plans to resign in June.

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Gay, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, is currently a democracy scholar and dean of the university’s faculty of arts and sciences.

Gay, 52, said Thursday there is an urgent need for the university to engage more with the world and to “bring bold, courageous and pioneering thinking to our greatest challenges.”

“The idea of ​​the ‘ivory tower’ is the past, not the future of the academy,” he said. “We do not exist outside of society but as part of it. That means Harvard has a duty to support, engage, and serve the world.”

Several Harvard officials praised Gay’s leadership after his appointment was announced.

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“Claudine Gay’s inclusive approach to leadership will inspire staff and a workplace where everyone can thrive,” Meredith Weenick, the university’s executive vice president, said in a statement via Harvard’s official news website, the Harvard Gazette.

Chuck Schumer, leader of the Democrats in the US Senate, also praised Gay’s selection as Harvard’s president. “I was so happy to hear about this historic moment,” he wrote on Twitter.

Gay was appointed months after Harvard released a report acknowledging that slavery was “an integral part” of the university for its first nearly 150 years.

“Harvard profited from and in some ways perpetuated practices that were deeply immoral,” Bacow wrote in a university-wide email in April.

“Accordingly, I believe we have a moral responsibility to do what we can to address the lingering corrosive effects of those historic practices on individuals, on Harvard, and on our society,” he said.

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The university authorized a $100 million fund to address the legacy of slavery.

The Supreme Court is due to rule next year on a challenge to Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policies in a case that could disrupt affirmative action programs that encourage enrollment of black and other minority students in institutions of higher education. .

Harvard has warned that if the lawsuit is successful, it “will reduce students’ opportunities to live and learn in a diverse campus environment, denying them the kinds of experiences that are critical to Harvard’s educational mission and critical to success in our diverse society.” ”.

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