Harvard University has announced that its new president will be Claudine Gay, the dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. She will be the first African American, and second woman, to ascend to the presidency, succeeding Lawrence S. Bacow.
Dr. Gay will take office in July 2023, just as the university faces a pivotal Supreme Court decision that may force it to revise its longstanding admissions processes, which have been criticized for considering factors that favor white and wealthy candidates while also using affirmative action to bolster enrollment by Black and Hispanic students.
As a proponent of increased diversity in hiring, as well as an expert on minority representation and political participation in government, Dr. Gay may be ideally suited to the task, supporters said.
“Claudine is a remarkable leader who is profoundly devoted to sustaining and enhancing Harvard’s academic excellence,” said Penny Pritzker, the chair of the presidential search committee.
Dr. Gay started at Harvard in 2006 as a professor of government, and in 2008, she was also appointed as a professor of African and African American studies. Her scholarship has explored how the election of minority officeholders affects citizens’ perception of government, cooperation between minority groups and how housing mobility programs affect political participation for the poor, according to the university.
Before joining Harvard’s faculty, Dr. Gay taught political science at Stanford University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. She earned her doctorate from Harvard in 1998.
Her tenure as dean has not been without highly publicized controversies. This year, several dozen Harvard professors, including some of the university’s most prominent, signed an open letter to Dr. Gay following her decision to discipline John L. Comaroff, a professor of African American Studies and Anthropology. He had been placed on academic leave following allegations of sexual misconduct. Most of the professors later retracted their names from the letter.
An investigation by the university found that Dr. Comaroff had engaged in verbal conduct that violated university policies, but it did not confirm claims of unwanted sexual contact. A lawsuit against the university was filed by three women who said they were victims.
The selection of Dr. Gay, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, was the product of a large-scale search that generated more than 600 nominations and included more than 20 committee meetings, Ms. Pritzker said. The search committee was composed of members of the university’s governing boards, the Harvard Corporation and Board of Overseers.