Posted on April 11, 2024

A Witch Hunt Is Targeting Black Harvard Faculty

Maya A. Bodnick, Harvard Crimson, April 9, 2024

A group of powerful conservatives have started a plagiarism witch hunt. Their targets? Black, female faculty, many of whom study race.

Right-wing activists have levied new plagiarism accusations on a monthly basis. In Dec., conservative activist Christopher F. Rufo and Christopher Brunet reported on accusations against former Harvard University President Claudine Gay. Then, in Jan., the conservative Washington Free Beacon covered a complaint filed against Sherri A. Charleston, Harvard’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. In Feb., anonymous bad actors accused Harvard Extension School administrator Shirley R. Greene of plagiarism. And finally in March, Rufo reported on allegations against Harvard assistant professor of Sociology Christina J. Cross.

Conservatives have emphasized that all four of the accused are Black women.

“Let’s not ignore the pattern,” Rufo wrote on X. “This is the fourth black female CRT/DEI scholar to be accused of plagiarism at Harvard.”


These racially-motivated allegations aren’t just directed at Harvard faculty. Recently, Alade S. McKen, the Chief DEI Officer at Columbia’s medical center, and LaVar J. Charleston, the Chief Diversity Officer at the University Wisconsin-Madison, have also been accused of plagiarism. Both are Black.

Clearly, the right has an agenda: crafting a narrative that Black academics, particularly women and those who study race, disproportionately plagiarize.


Frankly, it’s very troubling that the Harvard administration has let Rufo and his allies dominate the plagiarism conversation. The University has stuck its head in the sand, ignoring the gigantic bullseye on the backs of Black female faculty. It’s time to take back control.

The critical first step? Harvard should conduct a broad plagiarism review of the entire faculty. I believe that this review will at last set the story straight and reveal that plagiarism is an issue for many academics across demographics and disciplines — it’s not just a Black, female, DEI issue.


If there is a widespread plagiarism crisis, then universities like Harvard must expose and address it, rather than letting a conservative witch hunt create the false impression that only Black women plagiarize.