House Extends Investigation Into Allegations of Plagiarism by Harvard’s President

Aaron Pan
By Aaron Pan
December 21, 2023Congress

A House committee has opened an investigation into how Harvard has handled plagiarism allegations against the university’s president, Claudine Gay.

House Education Committee Chairwoman Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) on Dec. 20 sent a letter to Penny Pritzker, head of Harvard’s governing body, requesting information regarding accusations of plagiarism by Ms. Gay and other academic integrity-related documents from the school.

“An allegation of plagiarism by a top school official at any university would be reason for concern, but Harvard is not just any university,” Ms Foxx said. “It styles itself as one of the top educational institutions in the country.”

The letter also raised concerns over the unequal application of the school’s code of honor to its faculty members and students.

“Our concern is that standards are not being applied consistently, resulting in different rules for different members of the academic community,” the letter stated. “If a university is willing to look the other way and not hold faculty accountable for engaging in academically dishonest behavior, it cheapens its mission and the value of its education.”

The investigation came as Harvard’s governing board on Dec. 12 let Ms. Gay retain her job following her disastrous congressional hearing over anti-Semitism on campus last week amid mounting pressure from lawmakers, alumni, donors, and students to remove the school’s head from her post.

The Harvard board at the time said it was aware of the alleged plagiarism regarding Ms. Gay’s three articles since late October. After the board reviewed her work, it found “a few instances of inadequate citation” and cleared her of academic violation of research misconduct.

Harvard is also among multiple schools and universities under civil rights investigations by the U.S. Department of Education following allegations of anti-Semitism or Islamophobia since the start of the Israel–Hamas war.

The Epoch Times has reached out to Harvard for comment.

Additional Plagiarism Allegations

On Dec. 19, The Washington Free Beacon reported that Harvard received a 37-page complaint containing additional plagiarism allegations against Ms. Gay.

The complaint, sent to Harvard’s research integrity officer, outlines details of 39 alleged plagiarism cases related to Ms. Gay’s work. The complaint includes previous cases that have been reported by The Epoch Times and other outlets. The allegations vary from no quotation marks to the verbatim lifting of entire paragraphs.

The Harvard College Honor Code states: “Cheating on exams or problem sets, plagiarizing or misrepresenting the ideas or language of someone else as one’s own, falsifying data, or any other instance of academic dishonesty violates the standards of our community, as well as the standards of the wider world of learning and affairs.”

Harvard forced 27 students to withdraw from the school during the 2020/2021 academic year for academic violations, according to The Harvard Crimson. Plagiarism and exam cheating are among the top academic violations at the school.

Previous Allegations

In late October, the New York Post contacted Harvard, asking for comment over two dozen instances in which Ms. Gay’s words, phrases, or sentences appeared to closely resemble works already published by other academics.

On Dec. 11, Christopher F. Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute think tank, alleged that Ms. Gay “lift[ed] an entire paragraph nearly verbatim” from a 1990 paper by authors Lawrence Bobo and Franklin Gilliam.

Peter Wood, a former associate provost of Boston University, told The Washington Free Beacon, “If this were a stand-alone instance, it would be reprehensible but perhaps excused as the blunder of someone working hastily. But that excuse vanishes as the examples multiply.”

Commenting on the allegation, Matt Lieberman, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), said, “This isn’t lightweight plagiarism. This example is full-blown. An entire paragraph lifted and the original never cited at all. Any respectable doctoral committee would have refused her a Ph.D. over this. This had to be fully intentional.”

On Dec. 11, in a statement to The Boston Globe, Ms. Gay defended her work, saying, “I stand by the integrity of my scholarship. Throughout my career, I have worked to ensure my scholarship adheres to the highest academic standards.”

The Harvard Crimson reported on Dec. 12 that after it “independently reviewed the published allegations,” it found that “though some are minor … others are more substantial, including some paragraphs and sentences nearly identical to other work and lacking citations.”

“Some appear to violate Harvard’s current policies around plagiarism and academic integrity,” the student-run newspaper added.

Stephen Katte and Naveen Athrappully contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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