Posted on May 16, 2024

MIT Hired Six New Diversity Deans. Two of Them Are Serial Plagiarists, Complaint Alleges.

Aaron Sibarium, Washington Free Beacon, May 14, 2024

In June 2021, a year into the cultural aftershocks of George Floyd’s death, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology set out to meet the moment, as so many other schools had, by hiring more diversity officers.

MIT welcomed six new deans of diversity, equity, and inclusion, one for each of the institute’s main schools, as part of a “DEI Strategic Action Plan” launched the previous year. Aimed at boosting the representation of women and minorities, in part by developing DEI criteria for staff performance reviews, the plan pledged to “make equity central” to the university “while ensuring the highest standards of excellence.”

But according to a 71-page complaint filed with the university on Saturday, at least two of the six DEI officials may not be living up to those standards. The complaint alleges that Tracie Jones-Barrett and Alana Anderson are serial plagiarists, copying entire pages of text without attribution and riding roughshod over MIT’s academic integrity policies.

In her 2023 dissertation titled “Cite a Sista,” which explored how black women in the Ivy League “make meaning of thriving,” Jones-Barrett, MIT’s deputy “equity officer,” lifts a whole section on “ethical considerations” from Emmitt Wyche III, her classmate in Northeastern University’s Graduate School of Education, without any sort of citation.

The section is one of several long passages taken from Wyche’s 2020 thesis, “Boyz in the Hoods: (Re) Defining the Narratives of Black Male Doctoral Degree Completers,” which does not appear in Jones-Barrett’s bibliography. {snip}

Anderson, who served as the diversity czar for MIT’s computer science college until last year, when she left to become Boston Beer Company’s inclusion and belonging program manager, likewise copied copious material from other scholars. Her 2017 dissertation, “#BLACKONCAMPUS: A Critical Examination of Racial and Gender Performances of Black College Women on Social Media,” lifts over a page of material from Mark Chae, a professor of counseling at Pillar College, who is not cited anywhere in her dissertation.


Anderson, who held DEI posts at Boston University and Babson College before coming to MIT, lifts another long passage from Jarvis Givens, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, without an in-text citation. The omissions appear to violate MIT’s plagiarism policy, which states that scholars must cite their sources any time they “use the words, ideas, or phrasing of another person.”


In total, the two diversity deans lifted about 10 full pages of material without attribution, according to the complaint, as well as dozens of shorter passages sprinkled throughout their theses.

Like former Harvard University president Claudine Gay, who resigned in January amid her own plagiarism scandal, Anderson even stole language from another scholar’s acknowledgments, copying phrases and sentences used by Khalilah Shabazz, now a diversity official at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, to thank her dissertation advisers.

Anderson’s acknowledgments contain several typos not seen in Shabbaz’s, including missing words and commas and a lack of subject-verb agreement.


The two dissertations at issue are strikingly derivative, cobbled together from classmates, online sources, and even a book’s dust jacket, and at times read like replicas of their unattributed source material.

Jones-Barrett’s summary of her dissertation, for example, is nearly identical to the summary Wyche provides of his own. {snip}


Jones-Barrett, who has taught courses at Harvard Extension School and was initially hired as the assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion for MIT’s humanities school, also poached a passage on “potential research bias” from Wyche {snip}


Anderson, meanwhile, lifts several paragraphs from a 2016 ThinkProgress article about her alma mater, Boston College, from which some of her study’s interview subjects were drawn. {snip}


Anderson—who runs her own consultancy that offers “scientifically-based” DEI programming—also borrows three sentences from the dust jacket of Ebony and Ivy, a 2013 book by MIT historian Craig Wilder, who is only cited in one of the sentences and whose words do not appear in quotation marks.