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Commentary By Eric Kaufmann

The Harvard DEI Complex Is Stronger than Ever

Education Higher Ed

Claudine Gay's dismissal as president has proven to be a false dawn

After Claudine Gay’s dismissal as Harvard president, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) complex is already regrouping after suffering one of its rare setbacks. Exhibit A is Harvard’s latest move: the appointment of Derek Penslar to chair its new antisemitism committee.

Not only did Harvard feel obliged to create an anti-Islamophobia committee alongside the antisemitism committee, but it nominated an anti-Zionist in Penslar to lead the latter effort. Clearly, it is staff and students, not disgruntled donors, who are calling the shots. What signal does it send when the university nominates someone who has signed an open letter calling Israel “a regime of apartheid” and who endorses the Left’s postcolonial conceit that “settler colonialism” is a useful way of thinking about the country? These are legitimate views, but come across as tone-deaf after an institution has been raked over the coals for coddling students who pinned Hamas’s 7 October massacre “entirely” on Israel. 

In response, critics including financier Bill Ackman and former Harvard president Larry Summers have been scathing. But faced with pushback from outside its walls, the university has circled the wagons. Led by centre-leftists like politics professor Steven Levitsky, the faculty and administration are doubling down on the “it’s a conservative plot” narrative.

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Eric Kaufmann is professor of politics at Birkbeck College, University of London and an adjunct fellow of the Manhattan Institute. 

Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images