Congress launches investigation into Harvard's handling of Gay's plagiarism problem

Wednesday, The New York Times published a list of five excerpts of Gay’s published works in question, alongside the works of scholars from whom she is alleged to have lifted words.

As evidence of Harvard University President Claudine Gay’s plagiarism habit continues to mount, Congress is demanding that Harvard University provide all documentation related to the matter, suggesting that Gay may be getting away with a lack of academic integrity that would be unacceptable for students of the elite university.

In a Dec. 20 letter, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce advised the university that it had begun a review of the institution’s “handling of credible allegations of plagiarism by President Claudine Gay over a period of 24 years.” 

In addition to documents pertaining to the allegations against Gay and the “independent review” conducted by Harvard, the committee requested “A list of any disciplinary actions taken against Harvard faculty or students on the basis of academic integrity violations, research misconduct, inadequate citation, or other forms of plagiarism” since January 2019– including notes as to whether or not those students were allowed outside counsel.

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Committee Chairwoman Rep. Dr. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) referenced Harvard’s Honor Code regarding academic integrity, asking whether Harvard holds faculty and leadership to the same standard as students. She also reminded the institution that failure to uphold proper academic standards could result in a loss of accreditation and, therefore, of federal funding. 

”Our concern is that standards are not being applied consistently, resulting in different rules for different members of the academic community,” wrote Foxx. “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. Students must be evaluated fairly, under known standards – and have a right to see that faculty are, too.”

The allegations against Gay were brought to light by journalists Christopher Rufo and Christopher Brunet on Dec. 10. Their report demonstrated that Gay’s 1997 PhD dissertation contains at least three examples of what Harvard itself would qualify as plagiarism.

Shortly after, Harvard’s governing board issued a statement of support for Gay, acknowledging both the plagiarism allegations and her disastrous Dec.5 congressional testimony in which she repeatedly insisted that “calling for the genocide of Jews” was not necessarily against the rules at Harvard, depending on the “context.”

In its statement, Harvard Corporation revealed that it had been aware of plagiarism allegations against Gay since October, and had already reviewed the results on Dec. 9 of an “independent review” of the matter – just a day before Rufo’s report. While the board admitted that it found “a few instances of inadequate citation,” it said that “the analysis found no violation of Harvard’s standards for research misconduct, and promised that Gay was “proactively requesting four corrections in two articles to insert citations and quotation marks that were omitted from the original publications.”

Days later, Gay indeed submitted corrections involving “quotation marks and citations” for two articles, as reported by The Harvard Crimson

[RELATED: Claudine Gay is a DEI hire lacking intellectual credentials, critics argue]

But the scrutiny of Gay’s academic integrity has only increased since Harvard’s statement of assurance. Wednesday, The New York Times published a list of five excerpts of Gay’s published works in question, alongside the works of scholars from whom she is alleged to have lifted words. The same day, The Times reported that Harvard had acknowledged that it had found two more instances of “duplicative language without appropriate attribution” in Gay’s dissertation.

The Times acknowledges unequivocally that Gay’s “papers sometimes lift passages verbatim from other scholars and at other times make minor adjustments, like changing the word ‘adage’ to ‘popular saying’ or ‘Black male children’ to ‘young black athletes.’”

Scholars have noted that Gay’s intellectual credentials are not to a level typically expected of a university president, having only written 11 peer-reviewed journal papers, as New Mexico Associate Psychology Professor Geoffrey Miller pointed out on X.

“Well, that’s about the number you’d normally need to get hired as a first-year tenure-track assistant professor at a decent state university,” wrote Miller.