Harvard’s President Faces New Plagiarism Accusations - The World News

Harvard’s President Faces New Plagiarism Accusations

New plagiarism allegations have surfaced against Claudine 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 what constitutes plagiarism and whether Harvard holds its president and its students to the same standard.

The 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.

Harvard declined to comment Tuesday on the latest allegations.

The Free Beacon article ratchets up pressure that began after a disastrous congressional hearing on Dec. 5, in which Dr. Gay and two other university presidents — of M.I.T. and the University of Pennsylvania — appeared to equivocate when asked whether students would be punished if they called for the genocide of Jews.

Dr. Gay won a statement of confidence from Harvard’s governing board, known as the Corporation, on Dec. 12. But the Corporation’s statement also revealed that it had conducted a review of her published work after receiving accusations in October about three of her articles.

Dr. Gay now faces an investigation into the plagiarism charges by the same congressional committee that conducted the hearing on antisemitism.

Harvard said that in its reviews of the plagiarism charges, which included an independent review by three outside panelists whose identities have not been made public, the university found that Dr. Gay’s academic work used some “duplicative language,” but that it did not rise to the level of research misconduct.

Dr. Gay has strongly defended her work. “I stand by the integrity of my scholarship,” she said in a statement on Dec. 11, when the initial plagiarism charges were being circulated by conservative activists online and the Harvard Corporation was considering whether she should remain as president. “Throughout my career, I have worked to ensure my scholarship adheres to the highest academic standards,” Dr. Gay said.

The documents by the unnamed accuser that The Free Beacon links to on its website show 39 examples in the first complaint, rising to 47 in total in the second complaint. Separately, Harvard’s investigations have found instances of inadequate citation in her dissertation and at least two of her articles.

Reactions from Harvard faculty members and students have ranged from condemnation and consternation to questioning whether the cited examples actually constitute plagiarism.

In interviews and in opinion articles, some Harvard students have said Dr. Gay’s case raises questions about whether Harvard uses a double standard in its plagiarism investigations, giving faculty members a pass for actions that would lead to suspension or worse for students.

Some academics have said that Dr. Gay’s alleged offenses may reflect practices that were widespread in academia at the time of publication but have been tightened up since the advent of online plagiarism-detecting software.

She has not been accused of stealing big ideas, but rather of copying language in the papers of other scholars, with small changes to substitute words or phrases or to arrange them differently. Often the language in question is technical boilerplate.

In a typical example, the new complaint accurately quotes Dr. Gay’s 1997 dissertation, “Taking Charge: Black Electoral Success and the Redefinition of American Politics”: “The posterior distribution of each of the precinct parameters for precinct i is derived by the slice it’s tomography line cuts out of this bivariate distribution.”

The complaint quotes a similar line from Gary King, a Harvard political scientist, who was her thesis adviser and whom she credits in her acknowledgments: “The posterior distribution of each of the precinct parameters within the bounds indicated by its tomography line is derived by the slice it cuts out of the bivariate distribution of all lines.”

Her defenders note that the campaign against her is being promoted by conservative activists like Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and board member of New College of Florida, who opposes diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Many of Dr. Gay’s detractors on social media note that she is the first Black president of Harvard and suggest that she was hired because of her race.

The new complaint against Dr. Gay is preceded by a five-page chronology, written in a tone ranging from somber to sarcastic — under the jaunty salutation, “Happy New Year!” The chronology notes that the unnamed accuser submitted the first batch of allegations to Harvard on Dec. 19.

In one paragraph, the accuser, who seems to be familiar with Harvard’s policies on plagiarism, explains why he or she was unwilling to be identified by name: “I feared that Gay and Harvard would violate their policies, behave more like a cartel with a hedge fund attached than a university, and try to seek ‘immense’ damages from me and who knows what else.”

The New York Post has reported that it approached Harvard with plagiarism accusations against Dr. Gay in October, and said that Harvard responded through a defamation lawyer.

The accuser goes on to wonder why Harvard was so intent on exposing him or her: “Did Gay wish to personally thank me for helping her to improve her work even if I drove her harder than she wanted to be driven?”

The sentence is an allusion to a phrase in the acknowledgments of Dr. Gay’s 1997 dissertation, where she says that her family “drove me harder than I sometimes wanted to be driven.”

It is one of the phrases she is accused of copying, from the acknowledgments of a 1996 book, “Facing Up to the American Dream: Race, Class, and the Soul of the Nation,” by the Harvard political scientist Jennifer L. Hochschild, who was thanking another academic.

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