Yesterday we learned that the president of Harvard University, only eight months into her job, resigned. Claudine Gay was the first black woman to head the prestigious university.
Some say what toppled her were aggressive questions from a New York Republican congresswoman; or the fact that she left some footnotes out of an otherwise award-winning thesis; or that she listened more to Palestinian woes than to Israeli ones.
Her leadership demise follows on that of Elizabeth Magill of the University of Pennsylvania. A third president, Sally Kornbluth of MIT, is under pressure to follow.
Congresswoman Stefanik asked Dr. Gay this question: Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment? Yes or no? Replied Dr. Gay, “It can be, depending on the context” and added, Antisemitic rhetoric, when it crosses into conduct that amounts to bullying harassment, intimidation, that is actionable conduct, and we do take action.
For me, the key to her fall was revealed in an interview with the campus newspaper the following day:
What I should have had the presence of mind to do in that moment was return to my guiding truth, which is that calls for violence against our Jewish community—threats to our Jewish students—have no place at Harvard, and will never go unchallenged.
She confesses that she failed at finding her “guiding truth” and lacked “presence of mind.”
Why did she lack her guiding truth and presence of mind? Because, like the other two university presidents, she consulted a legal firm before sitting at the congressional inquiry and not her own heart. The responses of all three before Congress have been called “lawyerly” and “evasive,” “opaque and legalistic.”*
The lesson here is that LOTS of academia today consults more with legal offices than with their own hearts or sanctuary or….conscience. To lean on the legal profession today for moral advice and leadership is less than wise.
Wisdom is rare in academia today, so committed is it to the rational. Can this change?
Albert Einstein said, “I abhor American education” for this very reason—that it honors only the “rational brain” (his words) and avoids the “intuitive brain” which is where, he insisted, values come from. Not the intellect, but intuition. Not evasion but truth.
What is stunning is that all three college presidents went to the very same law firm for advice. I think that esteemed law firm deserves an F.
*Jennifer Schuessler, Anemona Hartocollis, Michael Levenson and Alan Blinder, “Harvard President Resigns: Plagiarism Allegations Followed Criticism of Response to Antisemitism,” New York Times, January 2, 2024.
Also see Samantha Delouya, “After Harvard and Penn President Resignations, Focus of Ire Shifts to MIT’s Kornbluth,” CNN, January 3, 2024.
See Matthew Fox, The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human.
And Fox, “Hildegard and 21st Century Science: Hildegard Meets Einstein, in Fox, Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint For Our Times, pp. 45-50.
And Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. xxxii, xxxvii.
Banner Image: Former university presidents Mary Elizabeth Magill (University of Pennsylvania), Claudine Gay (Harvard), and embattled current MIT president Sally Kornbluth. Portraits from the bio pages of their respective universities.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you agree that there is a surplus of evasive, legalistic, overly rational and value-less in much of academia today where knowledge trumps wisdom? What can be done?
The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human
The A.W.E. Project reminds us that awe is the appropriate response to the unfathomable wonder that is creation… A.W.E. is also the acronym for Fox’s proposed style of learning – an approach to balance the three R’s. This approach to learning, eldering, and mentoring is intelligent enough to honor the teachings of the Ancestors, to nurture Wisdom in addition to imparting knowledge, and to Educate through Fox’s 10 C’s. The 10 C’s are the core of the A.W.E. philosophy and process of education, and include: compassion, contemplation, and creativity. The A.W.E. Project does for the vast subject of “learning” what Fox’s Reinvention of Work did for vocation and Original Blessing did for theology. Included in the book is a dvd of the 10 C’s put to 10 video raps created and performed by Professor Pitt.
“An awe-based vision of educational renewal.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.
Hildegard of Bingen, A Saint for Our Times: Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century
Matthew Fox writes in Hildegard of Bingen about this amazing woman and what we can learn from her.
In an era when women were marginalized, Hildegard was an outspoken, controversial figure. Yet so visionary was her insight that she was sought out by kings, popes, abbots, and bishops for advice.
“This book gives strong, sterling, and unvarnished evidence that everything – everything – we ourselves become will affect what women after us may also become….This is a truly marvelous, useful, profound, and creative book.” ~~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism.
Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society
Visionary theologian and best-selling author Matthew Fox offers a new theology of evil that fundamentally changes the traditional perception of good and evil and points the way to a more enlightened treatment of ourselves, one another, and all of nature. In comparing the Eastern tradition of the 7 chakras to the Western tradition of the 7 capital sins, Fox allows us to think creatively about our capacity for personal and institutional evil and what we can do about them.
“A scholarly masterpiece embodying a better vision and depth of perception far beyond the grasp of any one single science. A breath-taking analysis.” — Diarmuid O’Murchu, author of Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics