Plagiarism Probe Finds Some Problems With Former Harvard President Claudine Gay’s Work

AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, file
Harvard President Claudine Gay speaks during a hearing of the House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, Dec. 5, 2023 in Washington.

BOSTON (AP) — Harvard University has shed fresh light on the ongoing investigation into plagiarism accusations against former president Claudine Gay, including that an independent body recommended a broader review after substantiating some of the complaints.

In a letter Friday to a congressional committee, Harvard said it learned of the plagiarism allegations against its first Black female president on Oct. 24 from a New York Post reporter. The school reached out to several authors whom Gay is accused of plagiarizing and none objected to her language, it said.

Harvard then appointed the independent body, which focused on two of Gay’s articles published in 2012 and 2017. It concluded they “are both sophisticated and original,” and found “virtually no evidence of intentional claiming of findings” that were not her own.

The panel, however, concluded that nine of 25 allegations found by the Post were “of principal concern” and featured “paraphrased or reproduced the language of others without quotation marks and without sufficient and clear crediting of sources.” It also found one instance where “fragments of duplicative language and paraphrasing” by Gay could be interpreted as her taking credit for another academic’s work, though there isn’t any evidence that was her aim.

It also found that a third paper, written by Gay during her first year in graduate school, contained “identical language to that previously published by others.”

Those findings prompted a broader review of her work by a Harvard subcommittee, which eventually led Gay to make corrections to the 2012 article as well as a 2001 article that surfaced in the broader review. The subcommittee presented its findings Dec. 9 to the Harvard Corporation, Harvard’s governing board, concluding that Gay’s “conduct was not reckless nor intentional and, therefore, did not constitute research misconduct.”

Gay’s academic career first came under the scrutiny following her congressional testimony about antisemitism on campus. Gay, Liz Magill of the University of Pennsylvania and MIT’s president, Sally Kornbluth, came under criticism for their lawyerly answers to New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, who asked whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” would violate the colleges’ codes of conduct.

The three presidents had been called before the Republican-led House Committee on Education and the Workforce to answer accusations that universities were failing to protect Jewish students amid rising fears of antisemitism worldwide and the fallout from Israel’s intensifying war in Gaza.

Gay said it depended on the context, adding that when “speech crosses into conduct, that violates our policies.” The answer faced swift backlash from Republican and some Democratic lawmakers, as well as the White House.

The House committee announced days later that it would investigate the policies and disciplinary procedures at Harvard, MIT and Penn.

The corporation initially rallied behind Gay, saying a review of her scholarly work turned up “a few instances of inadequate citation” but no evidence of research misconduct. The allegations of plagiarism continued to surface through December and Gay resigned this month.