Claudine Gay, Harvard University’s first Black female president, recently resigned amidst accusations of plagiarism and criticism over her testimony at a Congressional hearing. The accusations against her came after conservative activists scrutinized her academic work and found instances of alleged plagiarism in her 1997 doctoral dissertation. This situation mirrors what happened to Nikole Hannah-Jones when she was at the University of North Carolina.
Hannah-Jones, a prominent journalist, faced opposition and scrutiny from certain individuals when she joined the faculty at Howard University after trustees at UNC initially voted against granting her tenure. This treatment of both Gay and Hannah-Jones reflects a pattern of excluding Black individuals from positions of power.
This exclusion is also evident in sports. There are very few Black majority owners in professional sports, and Black head coaches face significant challenges in Major League Baseball and football. The NFL’s Rooney Rule, which is meant to promote diversity and inclusion, has been criticized as a superficial initiative.
When news of Gay’s resignation broke, the writer thought of the Black coaches at Harvard and wondered if they would speak up. The writer notes that these coaches are primarily focused on developing players and running their programs, and they are not expected to take on the additional responsibilities of being change agents for racial and social issues. This contrasts with the expectations placed on their white counterparts.
The writer does not offer a specific solution to address these issues but aims to raise awareness of the systemic challenges faced by Black individuals in academia and sports.