Claudine Gay Resigns as Harvard President After Plagiarism Charges - The World News

Claudine Gay Resigns as Harvard President After Plagiarism Charges

Faced with a new round of accusations over plagiarism in her scholarly work, Harvard’s president Claudine Gay announced her resignation on Tuesday, becoming the second Ivy League leader to lose her job in recent weeks amid a firestorm intensified by their widely derided congressional testimony regarding antisemitism on campus.

The resignation of Dr. Gay marked an abrupt end to a turbulent tenure that began in July. Her stint was the shortest of any president in the history of Harvard since its founding in 1636. She was the institution’s first Black president, and the second woman to lead the university.

“It is with a heavy heart but a deep love for Harvard that I write to share that I will be stepping down as president,” Dr. Gay wrote in a letter to the Harvard community.

Over the last month, plagiarism accusations had surfaced against Dr. Gay, the president of Harvard, signaling that the attacks on her qualifications to lead the Ivy League university are continuing, and miring the university deeper in debate over whether Harvard holds its president and its students to the same standard.

The latest accusations were circulated through an unsigned complaint published Monday in The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative online journal that has led a campaign against Dr. Gay over the past few weeks. The new complaint added additional accusations of plagiarism to about 40 that had already been circulated in the same way, apparently by the same accuser.

Support for Dr. Gay’s nascent presidency began eroding after what some saw as the university’s initial failure to forcefully condemn the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel and some pro-Palestinian student responses. The caution outraged some Harvard supporters — outrage that grew in early December, after Dr. Gay gave what critics saw as lawyerly, evasive answers before Congress when asked whether calls for the genocide of Jewish people were violations of school policies.

Dr. Gay appeared at a hearing along with two other university presidents, Elizabeth Magill of the University of Pennsylvania and Sally Kornbluth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the hearing, Representative Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York, pelted the presidents with hypothetical questions.

“At Harvard,” Ms. Stefanik asked Dr. Gay, “does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment? Yes or no?” Dr. Gay replied, “It can be, depending on the context.”

That exchange, and a similar back and forth between Ms. Stefanik and Ms. Magill, rocketed across social media and infuriated many people with close ties to the universities. Ms. Magill, whose support had already been shaken in recent months over her refusal to cancel a Palestinian writers conference, resigned as Penn’s president four days later.

Dr. Gay moved to contain the fallout with an apology in an interview that was published in The Harvard Crimson, the campus newspaper. “When words amplify distress and pain, I don’t know how you could feel anything but regret,” she said.

One week after her testimony, the Harvard Corporation, the university’s governing body issued a unanimous statement of support — after meeting late into the night before — saying said it stood firmly behind Dr. Gay despite the pressure from major financial backers, prominent Jewish alumni and lawmakers calling for her ouster.`

At the same time, the university acknowledged that it had received accusations of plagiarism in three academic articles by Dr. Gay. It said a review had determined that she had not violated the university’s standards for “research misconduct,” but that the investigation “revealed a few instances of inadequate citation,” and that Dr. Gay would request four corrections to two articles.

Then on Dec. 20, amid continuing allegations of plagiarism driven by conservative media, the university said that it had found two new instances of insufficient citation in Dr. Gay’s work — this time in her 1997 doctoral dissertation. Harvard described the issues as “duplicative language without appropriate attribution” and said that she would update her dissertation to correct them.

Dr. Gay, who earned her doctorate in government from Harvard in 1998 and returned eight years later to teach government there, found her support — already on shaky ground after the uproar over antisemitism — evaporating as the plagiarism allegations and findings by the university continued to mount.

The accusations also drew more unwelcome attention from Congress, when a committee investigating Harvard sent a letter to the university demanding all of its documentation and communications related to the plagiarism allegations.

Altogether, the charges circulated by conservative media, including in an article by the activist Christopher Rufo and in reporting by The Washington Free Beacon, accuse Dr. Gay of using material from other sources without proper attribution in about half of the 11 journal articles listed on her résumé, in addition to her dissertation.

The examples range from brief snippets of technical definitions to paragraphs summing up other scholars’ research that are only lightly paraphrased, and in some cases lack any direct citation of the other scholars. In one example that drew particular attention and ridicule online, the acknowledgments of Dr. Gay’s dissertation appear to take two sentences from the 1996 book acknowledgments of another scholar, Jennifer L. Hochschild.

As allegations mounted, faculty members at Harvard and scholars elsewhere offered varying assessments of the severity of the infractions, with some seeing a disturbing pattern, and others calling them minor or dismissing them as a partisan hit job.

But to some, the issue was plain: Dr. Gay had committed plagiarism — a word which does not actually appear in the Harvard board’s initial statement on Dec. 12 — and Harvard should admit it.

Carol Swain, a political scientist who retired from Vanderbilt University in 2017, said that she was “livid,” both at Dr. Gay’s use of her work — Mr. Rufo cited at least two instances of Dr. Gay using Dr. Swain’s work with no citation — and at Harvard’s defense of her.

But Steven Levitsky, a government professor at Harvard, said the passages in question seemed to mostly be “mild sloppiness.”

Many, he said, appeared to occur in sections of the papers dealing not with Dr, Gay’s core claims, but with summaries of methodologies and of previous scholarship.

“She’s a quantitative scholar,” he said. “She cares about the data. These guys don’t spend time fussing about their literature reviews.”

Dr. Levitsky had organized a faculty petition in support of her that had urged the Corporation to “resist political pressures that are at odds with Harvard’s commitment to academic freedom.”

Reporting was contributed by Dana Goldstein, Sarah Mervosh and Vimal Patel.

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