Dr. Sally Kornbluth, President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on December 05, 2023 in Washington, DC. The Committee held a hearing to investigate antisemitism on college campuses.
CNN  — 

Last month, three university presidents drew intense backlash for their testimonies on antisemitism on campus during a congressional hearing. Today, only one has still kept that position.

When asked by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) in December whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” amounted to bullying and harassment on campus, University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, Harvard University President Claudine Gay and Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth responded with opaque, legalistic answers.

Magill became a focus of activists determined to push her out; she resigned not long after the disastrous hearing. Harvard’s Gay also drew criticism, for the hearing and for a plagiarism scandal. With Gay’s Tuesday resignation, MIT’s Kornbluth became the last of the trio still helming a university – and some of the loudest voices pushing for Gay and Magill to go have signaled they may focus on her next.

After Gay’s resignation, Bill Ackman, a billionaire investor who pushed publicly and vocally for Gay’s removal, posted on X “Et tu Sally?”, seeming to refer to Kornbluth.

On Tuesday, when asked for comment in light of Gay’s resignation, a spokesperson for MIT said the school’s “leadership remains focused on ensuring the work of MIT.”

Magill and Gay faced intense backlash

Shortly after her testimony, Magill issued a video apology, saying, “in that moment, I was focused on our University’s longstanding policies aligned with the U.S. Constitution, which say that speech alone is not punishable.”

Still, Magill faced growing pressure from donors, Republican officials and alumni. Three days after her apology, Magill resigned. Her presidency barely lasted a year.

This week, Harvard president Claudine Gay followed.

Gay also apologized shortly after the December hearing in an interview with the Harvard Crimson.

“When words amplify distress and pain, I don’t know how you could feel anything but regret,” she said.

But calls for Gay’s resignation grew even stronger after accusations of plagiarism emerged, including multiple allegations of missing quotation marks and citations.

Harvard alum Ackman was one of the loudest voices waging battle against Gay, claiming in social media posts (without evidence) that Harvard hired Gay only to fulfill diversity requirements, an accusation that Gay and Harvard deny.

Nevertheless, Gay announced her resignation in an email addressed to the Harvard community Tuesday. She said the decision was reached after consultation with Harvard’s governing boards.

Gay, who was the first Black president in Harvard’s nearly 400-year history and the second woman, served just over six months — the shortest term in the university’s history.

“It has been distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigor—two bedrock values that are fundamental to who I am—and frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus,” Gay wrote.

Both Gay and Magill will stay on as faculty at their respective universities.

Pressure on Kornbluth?

Unlike the other two in the trio, Kornbluth, who is Jewish, did not issue a formal apology after the controversial Capitol Hill hearing. In fact, MIT’s governing board, the MIT Corporation, swiftly issued a statement after her testimony.

“She has done excellent work in leading our community, including in addressing antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate, all of which we reject utterly at MIT. She has our full and unreserved support,” the statement said.

After Gay’s resignation on Tuesday, though, Kornbluth is now in the spotlight for some of those who pushed for the other two presidents’ ousters.

“Et tu Sally?” Ackman posted on X, seeming to refer to Kornbluth.

Stefanik, who is also a Harvard alum, celebrated Gay’s departure, posting “TWO DOWN” on social media — seemingly referring to Magill and Gay’s resignations.

“Our robust Congressional investigation will continue to move forward to expose the rot in our most ‘prestigious’ higher education institutions and deliver accountability to the American people,” Stefanik wrote in a separate post.

Some academics have spoken out about the pressure campaigns that preceded Magill and Gay’s resignations, though.

Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday, Allison Frank Johnson, a history professor at Harvard, drew parallels to the Red Scare of the 1950s when Senator Joseph McCarthy led investigations and hearings into academics, government officials and others accused of communism.

“Independent universities, independent from outside political influence, are one of the most critical elements of a thriving democracy,” she said. “For me, the danger here would be to lose our independent universities, to have a second kind of McCarthy-ite attack on universities and their scholarship based on political motives of any kind.”