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Lawmaker questions Harvard president about flying Ukraine flag, not Israel’s

Harvard president: Predecessor made ‘exception to longstanding rule’

Harvard University President Claudine Gay confirmed Tuesday that her school made an exception when it flew the Ukrainian flag on campus last year but refused to do the same for Israel this fall.

Her comments came in response to questioning by U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, during a House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing about rising antisemitism on college campuses. The presidents of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania also testified.

When Stefanik asked if Harvard was contacted “about flying the Israeli flag over Harvard yard” in October, Gay said the school was but it did not fly the flag.

“It’s been standard protocol at the university for years to only fly the American flag unless we have a visiting dignitary,” Gay said.

Asked why the university flew the Ukrainian flag in 2022, Gay said the decision was “made by my predecessor as an exception to a longstanding rule.” She succeeded President Larry Bacow on July 1 of this year.

“So it was an exception,” Stefanik said, adding, “The university made an exception for the Ukrainian flag but not the Israeli flag?”

Gay responded, “That was a choice made by my predecessor.”

The College Fix reported about Harvard’s inconsistency involving the flags in mid-October as controversy raged over higher education leaders’ responses to the Israel-Hamas conflict and antisemitism.

In 2022, the Ivy League school raised a Ukrainian flag on campus in solidarity with its people within four days of the Russian invasion.

While doing so, university leaders also condemned the “deplorable actions” of Russian President Vladimir Putin, including his “wanton aggression” against the neighboring European nation.

However, Harvard leaders did not take similar action in the weeks after Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, murdering more than 1,300 innocent civilians — women, children, families, The Fix found.

At the time, The Fix contacted Harvard media relations, Gay’s office, and the vice president’s office several times to ask about the matter, but none responded to requests for comment.

Others also questioned Harvard’s inconsistency on social media, including journalist Abigail Shrier who accused Gay of equivocating “for days on whether even to condemn Hamas.”

Gay issued a statement Oct. 12 about the “War in the Middle East,” in which she condemned “the terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Hamas. Such inhumanity is abhorrent, whatever one’s individual views of the origins of longstanding conflicts in the region.”

During the hearing Tuesday, Gay said she has made mistakes while trying to balance free expression with responses to hate on campus since the Oct. 7 attack, NPR reports.

“During these difficult days, I have felt the bonds of our community strained,” Gay said. “In response, I have sought to confront hate while preserving free expression. This is difficult work and I know that I have not always gotten it right.”

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IMAGE: Harvard University

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About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.