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The student-run news site of The Masters School

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The student-run news site of The Masters School

Tower

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day each year, Masters students run workshops to explore different core concepts and ideas surrounding the years designated theme.
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Student-run workshops led on Martin Luther King Jr. Day each year have been an essential educational experience for students, with each workshop...

Claudine Gay’s resignation from Harvard ignites discussion about political neutrality in schools

Claudine+Gay+was+Harvards+first+black+president%2C+and+held+this+position+for+six+months+until+resigning+on+January+2.
Lisa Yao
Claudine Gay was Harvard’s first black president, and held this position for six months until resigning on January 2.

Claudine Gay, Harvard University’s 30th president and first Black woman to have the role, resigned on January 2 after a six-month tenure marked by controversy over her handling of politically-charged campus incidents and plagiarism accusations. Her departure has sparked debate about the role of administrators and teachers in navigating issues surrounding academic freedom and political neutrality on campuses.

The recent uproar about Gay’s leadership began during the House Committee on Education and Workforce hearing when she responded to GOP Elise Stefanik’s question, “Will admission offers be rescinded or any disciplinary action be taken against students or applicants who say, ‘from the river to the sea’ or ‘intifada’ advocating for the murder of Jews?” by saying it was context-dependent. After that, according to USA Today, Gay said, “Antisemitic speech, when it crosses into conduct that amounts to bullying, harassment, intimidation — that is actionable conduct and we do take action.”

This comment caused widespread criticism of Gay from members of the Harvard community and the public, leading people to slander her online and call for her resignation. 

Some who disagreed with Gay’s words sent her emails with offensive and hateful content. Harvard mentioned that fact in its official statement on Gay’s resignation, saying, “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.”

Sophomore Madi Lowe described her initial reactions to the events leading up to Gay’s resignation. She said,  “I watched the committee session and I see with what the question is that they were all put in a tough position.

“I know what I would answer, but being the president, she was speaking for all her students, making it more difficult on what she could say.”

— Madi Lowe '26

Following the controversy of Gay’s response to Stefanik, plagiarism accusations against Gay began to come forth. People accused Gay of copying others’ work in her academic dissertations, prompting Harvard to open up an investigation. 

Harvard declared that investigators discovered “examples of duplicative language without appropriate attribution” in Gay’s 1997 Ph.D. dissertation, as stated in a three-page summary released to the Boston Globe. However, they decided that these incorrect citations were not enough to be deemed misconduct, and the summary said, “President Gay will update her dissertation correcting these instances of inadequate citation.”

Adding another layer to the national conversation about educators and administrators navigating sensitive topics is Liz Magill’s resignation on December 9, 2023, as president of the University of Pennsylvania. 

Like Gay, Magill faced backlash for how she answered Stefanik’s question about whether or not hate speech advocating for the genocide of Jewish peoples constituted a violation of university policies because she also said such speech was “context-dependent.” 

Senior and member of the Political Science class at Masters, Gabriel Tomajko, said that following the outrage surrounding Gay and Magill, “Teachers will be more fearful to come out and be honest about what they believe after seeing that they can be punished for stating their beliefs.”

“Teachers will be more fearful to come out and be honest about what they believe after seeing that they can be punished for stating their beliefs.”

— Gabriel Tomajko

Tomajko’s concern about teachers becoming more fearful after high-profile events like Claudine Gay’s resignation resonates with the quiet at Masters.

Nine teachers and administrators when contacted for comment on the situation and its broader implications for academic institutions, either declined to speak or did not respond to the interview request. The silence among educators across various departments and roles at Masters reflects a trend of cautiousness and self-censorship observed in schools across the country following October 7th and now, the removal of Gay and Magill from their positions. 

In our increasingly politicized and polarized climate, more and more conversations about political neutrality in schools, and on the Masters campus, are starting.

Many students, like Lowe, fear that teachers with strong political opinions might hold undue influence over students. “I think they have to remain neutral,” she voiced, “because being in that position of power, teachers are kind of like guides for us, and they should be a good example, not expressing political views that could potentially offend their students.”

Others, like Tomajko, take an opposing view. “Teachers should realistically, unless they’re elementary school teachers, be allowed to provide commentary,” he said. “I mean, so much of what we get taught is political. It’s hard to be politically neutral on all these issues.”

These popular yet contrasting opinions are just two examples of common rhetoric circulating around the media and classrooms, and as discussions about academic freedom and political neutrality in schools continue, the future of classroom discourse remains a relevant point of deliberation. 

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Claudine Gay’s resignation from Harvard ignites discussion about political neutrality in schools – Tower

Claudine Gay, Harvard University’s 30th president and first Black woman to have the role, resigned on January 2 after a six-month tenure marked by controversy over her handling of politically-charged campus incidents and plagiarism accusations. Her departure has sparked debate about the role of administrators and teachers in navigating issues surrounding academic freedom and political neutrality on campuses.

The recent uproar about Gay’s leadership began during the House Committee on Education and Workforce hearing when she responded to GOP Elise Stefanik’s question, “Will admission offers be rescinded or any disciplinary action be taken against students or applicants who say, ‘from the river to the sea’ or ‘intifada’ advocating for the murder of Jews?” by saying it was context-dependent. After that, according to USA Today, Gay said, “Antisemitic speech, when it crosses into conduct that amounts to bullying, harassment, intimidation — that is actionable conduct and we do take action.”

This comment caused widespread criticism of Gay from members of the Harvard community and the public, leading people to slander her online and call for her resignation. 

Some who disagreed with Gay’s words sent her emails with offensive and hateful content. Harvard mentioned that fact in its official statement on Gay’s resignation, saying, “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.”

Sophomore Madi Lowe described her initial reactions to the events leading up to Gay’s resignation. She said,  “I watched the committee session and I see with what the question is that they were all put in a tough position.

“I know what I would answer, but being the president, she was speaking for all her students, making it more difficult on what she could say.”

— Madi Lowe '26

Following the controversy of Gay’s response to Stefanik, plagiarism accusations against Gay began to come forth. People accused Gay of copying others’ work in her academic dissertations, prompting Harvard to open up an investigation. 

Harvard declared that investigators discovered “examples of duplicative language without appropriate attribution” in Gay’s 1997 Ph.D. dissertation, as stated in a three-page summary released to the Boston Globe. However, they decided that these incorrect citations were not enough to be deemed misconduct, and the summary said, “President Gay will update her dissertation correcting these instances of inadequate citation.”

Adding another layer to the national conversation about educators and administrators navigating sensitive topics is Liz Magill’s resignation on December 9, 2023, as president of the University of Pennsylvania. 

Like Gay, Magill faced backlash for how she answered Stefanik’s question about whether or not hate speech advocating for the genocide of Jewish peoples constituted a violation of university policies because she also said such speech was “context-dependent.” 

Senior and member of the Political Science class at Masters, Gabriel Tomajko, said that following the outrage surrounding Gay and Magill, “Teachers will be more fearful to come out and be honest about what they believe after seeing that they can be punished for stating their beliefs.”

“Teachers will be more fearful to come out and be honest about what they believe after seeing that they can be punished for stating their beliefs.”

— Gabriel Tomajko

Tomajko’s concern about teachers becoming more fearful after high-profile events like Claudine Gay’s resignation resonates with the quiet at Masters.

Nine teachers and administrators when contacted for comment on the situation and its broader implications for academic institutions, either declined to speak or did not respond to the interview request. The silence among educators across various departments and roles at Masters reflects a trend of cautiousness and self-censorship observed in schools across the country following October 7th and now, the removal of Gay and Magill from their positions. 

In our increasingly politicized and polarized climate, more and more conversations about political neutrality in schools, and on the Masters campus, are starting.

Many students, like Lowe, fear that teachers with strong political opinions might hold undue influence over students. “I think they have to remain neutral,” she voiced, “because being in that position of power, teachers are kind of like guides for us, and they should be a good example, not expressing political views that could potentially offend their students.”

Others, like Tomajko, take an opposing view. “Teachers should realistically, unless they’re elementary school teachers, be allowed to provide commentary,” he said. “I mean, so much of what we get taught is political. It’s hard to be politically neutral on all these issues.”

These popular yet contrasting opinions are just two examples of common rhetoric circulating around the media and classrooms, and as discussions about academic freedom and political neutrality in schools continue, the future of classroom discourse remains a relevant point of deliberation. 

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Comments on stories are posted at the editorial discretion of the Tower staff.
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