Posted on March 1, 2024

Columbia University Hospital DEI Chief Is Serial Plagiarist, Complaint Alleges

Aaron Sibarium, Washington Free Beacon, February 29, 2024

The chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer of Columbia University’s medical school, Alade McKen, plagiarized extensively in his doctoral dissertation, lifting entire pages of material, without attribution, from sources that include Wikipedia, according to a complaint submitted to the university on Wednesday.

The allegations implicate approximately a fifth of McKen’s 163-page dissertation, “‘UBUNTU’ I am because we are: A case study examining the experiences of an African-centered Rites of Passage program within a community-based organization,” submitted to Iowa State University’s School of Education in 2021. More than two of those pages are a near-verbatim facsimile of Wikipedia’s entry on “Afrocentric education,” which is not cited anywhere in the dissertation.

Other pages lift paragraphs from well-known African scholars, including the University of Rwanda’s Chika Ezeanya-Esiobu, while making small tweaks to their prose, such as reordering certain clauses or changing a “were” to a “was.”

Some of the scholars McKen allegedly plagiarized appear in the dissertation’s bibliography but not in in-text citations. Others, like Ezeanya-Esiobu, an expert on “indigenous knowledge” who has worked with numerous international agencies, including the World Bank, aren’t cited at all.


McKen, who holds a certificate in diversity and inclusion from Cornell University, oversees all DEI programs for staff at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, which includes Columbia’s flagship medical school, the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and is the largest campus of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. The center’s DEI initiatives include mandatory “antiracism” training for faculty and admissions officers, as well as an expedited hiring process for minority scholars.

McKen also works with the Columbia provost’s office, according to a fall 2023 bulletin announcing his appointment. That office oversees tenure decisions for the entire university, including the medical school. Columbia did not respond to a request for comment about whether McKen has oversight of faculty and doctors.


McKen’s dissertation contains some of the most extreme examples of plagiarism thus far. The 50-page complaint, which was submitted to Iowa State University as well as Columbia, outlines nearly 60 cases in which McKen, who assumed his post at the medical center last year, borrows passages from Africanists, education scholars, and diversity consultants without attribution.


The complaint alleges that McKen plagiarized over 30 authors total, not including Wikipedia. While the allegations only cover his dissertation, McKen has published multiple academic articles, according to his Google Scholar profile, with titles such as “Black Men in Engineering Graduate Education: Experiencing Racial Microaggressions Within the Advisor–Advisee Relationship” and “I Am Because We Are,” which explores “how African cultural practices can direct learning toward liberation.”