Posted on December 11, 2023

Is Claudine Gay a Plagiarist?

Christopher Rufo and Christopher Brunet, City Journal, December 11, 2023

Harvard president Claudine Gay has problems. Touted as the first black woman to run the nation’s most prestigious university, she assumed leadership with high expectations, but her tenure, which began this summer, has been mired in scandal. As dean and then as president, Gay has been accused of bullying colleaguessuppressing free speech, overseeing a racist admissions program, and, following the Hamas terror campaign against Israel, failing to stand up to rampant anti-Semitism on campus.

We have obtained exclusive documentation demonstrating that President Gay may face yet another problem: plagiarism of sections of her Ph.D. dissertation, which would violate Harvard’s own stated policies on academic integrity. {snip}

Gay published her dissertation, “Taking Charge: Black Electoral Success and the Redefinition of American Politics,” in 1997, as part of her doctorate in political science from Harvard. The paper deals with white-black political representation and racial attitudes. As evaluated under the university’s plagiarism policy, the paper contains at least three problematic patterns of usage and citation.

First, Gay lifts an entire paragraph nearly verbatim from Lawrence Bobo and Franklin Gilliam’s paper, “Race, Sociopolitical Participation, and Black Empowerment,” while passing it off as her own paraphrase and language. Here is the original, from Bobo and Gilliam:

Using 1987 national sample survey data . . . the results show that blacks in high-black-empowerment areas—as indicated by control of the mayor’s office—are more active than either blacks living in low-empowerment areas or their white counterparts of comparable socioeconomic status. Furthermore, the results show that empowerment influences black participation by contributing to a more trusting and efficacious orientation to politics and by greatly increasing black attentiveness to political affairs.

And here is the language from Gay’s work:

Using 1987 survey data, Bobo and Gilliam found that African-Americans in “high black-empowerment” areas—as indicated by control of the mayor’s office—are more active than either African-Americans in low empowerment areas or their white counterparts of comparable socioeconomic status. Empowerment, they conclude, influences black participation by contributing to a more trusting and efficacious orientation towards politics and by greatly increasing black attentiveness to political affairs.

Though Gay does provide a reference to the original authors, she uses their verbatim language, with a few trivial synonym substitutions, without providing quotation marks. {snip}

Gay repeats this violation throughout the document, again using work from Bobo and Gilliam, as well as passages from Richard Shingles, Susan Howell, and Deborah Fagan, which she reproduces nearly verbatim {snip}

Second, Gay appears to lift material from scholar Carol Swain in at least two instances. In one passage, summarizing the distinction between “descriptive representation” and “substantive representation,” she copies the phrasing and language nearly verbatim from Swain’s book Black Faces, Black Interests, without providing a citation of any kind. {snip}

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Third, Gay composes an entire appendix in the dissertation directly taken from Gary King’s book, A Solution to the Ecological Inference Problem. While she cites King’s book—in fact, King was her dissertation advisor—Gay does not explicitly acknowledge that Appendix B is entirely grounded in King’s concepts, instead passing it off as her own original work. Throughout the appendix, Gay takes entire phrases and sentences directly from King’s book, without any citations or quotation marks. {snip}

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