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Harvard stands by Penny Pritzker as calls for resignations grow

Harvard Corporation’s senior fellow Penny Pritzker will stay put for now as calls for her ouster grow following the immediate resignation of Claudine Gay as Harvard president Tuesday.

Pritzker, who has led the Ivy League school’s corporation since February 2022, will remain in her position, a Harvard spokesperson told the student-run Crimson Wednesday, despite backlash to the controversy that has besieged the elite school and its leaders since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

The corporation, which is similar to a board of trustees at other colleges, stood by Gay during the weeks of contention that included immense criticism of her statement to Congress addressing antisemitism last month and questions about the integrity of her academic record.

Following Gay’s resignation, the ire quickly turned to the Harvard Corporation and Pritzker, who also served as commerce secretary under President Obama. 

Pritzker, whose brother is Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, was the chair of the search committee that picked Gay to take over for Lawrence Bacow when he left the job last June. She is expected to be part of the search for a new permanent president, the Crimson reported.

Harvard did not immediately return an email Wednesday evening.

Billionaire and Harvard alum Bill Ackman, who led the charge to dump Gay, called on Pritzker and the rest of the board to step down early Wednesday morning in a 4,000-word essay posted on X that also went into universities’ DEI mission.

Calls for Penny Pritzker to step down have intensified. AFP via Getty Images

“The Board Chair, Penny Pritzker, should resign along with the other members of the board who led the campaign to keep Claudine Gay, orchestrated the strategy to threaten the media, bypassed the process for evaluating plagiarism, and otherwise greatly contributed to the damage that has been done,” Ackman said.

“These are the minimum changes necessary to begin to repair the damage that has been done,” he also said.

Peter Malkin, a Harvard donor and the namesake of the Malkin Athletic Center, wants members of the corporation involved with hiring Gay to step down.

Pritzker was part of the team that hired Claudine Gay as president last year. Terry Schmitt/UPI/Shutterstock

“I do think that the relatively hasty action by the Corporation in the search process indicated to me that not a full review was made of qualified candidates who are out there,” Malkin told the Crimson.

Another big donor, Kenneth Lipper, urged the university to reflect on what went wrong during Gay’s tenure as president.

“When we suffer a great loss,” Lipper said, “we must analyze the whys, repair what we can, and accelerate into a fresh performance phase reflective of our 300-year history of scholarly achievement and national leadership.”  

The campus has been filled with controversy the last few months. CJ GUNTHER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Frank Laukien, a visiting chemistry scholar at Harvard, singled out Pritzker as the problem, and told the New York Times she should “share accountability and resign immediately.”

Laukien added in an email to the paper: “We need multiple new independent members of the Harvard Corporation that are not tainted by recent events and failures, and who are not part of the long-standing cronyism at the top of Harvard.”  

Pritzker, a 1981 Harvard grad, has been a fellow on the board since 2018 before she rose to its senior fellow. She donated $100 million to the university toward a new economics building months before the appointment, the Boston Globe reported.

Pritzker’s net worth is estimated to be more than $3 billion with much of the family fortune coming from the Hyatt hotel chain, according to Forbes.

The business outlet named her one of the most powerful women in the world in 2009.

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Written by SaleemBaloch

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