Posted on December 14, 2023

Harvard Clears Its President of ‘Research Misconduct’ After Plagiarism Charges

Jennifer Schuessler and Vimal Patel, New York Times, December 12, 2023

The battle over the fate of Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay, took an unexpected turn this week, as accusations of plagiarism in her scholarly work surfaced, along with questions about how the university had handled them.

On Tuesday, the Harvard Corporation, the university’s governing body, announced that Dr. Gay would keep her job, despite the uproar over her statements on campus antisemitism at a congressional hearing. But the Corporation also revealed that it had conducted a review of her published work after receiving accusations in October about three of her articles.

The Corporation said that while the review found that she had not violated the university’s standards for “research misconduct,” it did discover “a few instances of inadequate citation.” Dr. Gay would request “four corrections in two articles to insert citations and quotation marks that were omitted from the original publications,” the statement said.

The accusations were first widely publicized on Sunday, in a newsletter by the conservative education activist Christopher Rufo. On Monday, The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative media outlet, published its own investigation, identifying what it said were issues with four papers published between 1993 and 2017. The article said the papers had paraphrased or quoted nearly 20 authors without proper attribution.


The accusations could deepen the turmoil around Dr. Gay, who was inaugurated as president in September. After the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel, she was harshly criticized by some students, faculty members, alumni and university donors for what they saw as a series of tepid responses to events in Israel and Gaza and to rising antisemitism on campus.


Dr. Gay, Harvard’s first Black president, has been a professor of government and of African and African American studies at the university since 2006. Her scholarship has explored subjects like how the election of minority officeholders affects citizens’ perception of government, and how housing mobility programs affect political participation for the poor.

At Harvard, where she received her doctorate in 1998, she has been both a barrier-breaker and savvy insider, steadily climbing the administrative ranks since joining the faculty.

The Harvard Corporation’s statement on Dr. Gay does not use the word “plagiarism.” But some members of Harvard’s faculty said they were disturbed by the passages highlighted in news coverage, saying students who committed similar infractions were often disciplined, sometimes harshly.

“It’s troubling to see the standards we apply to undergrads seem to differ from the standards we apply to faculty,” said Theda Skocpol, a professor of government.