Boston’s preeminent newspaper has taken Harvard University to task for what it deems a perplexing stance on plagiarism. This criticism follows the institution’s continued support for President Claudine Gay, who has been under fire for purportedly plagiarizing academic work.
In a recent editorial, the newspaper scrutinized a statement from Harvard’s governing board which acknowledged instances of “inadequate citation” in Gay’s scholarship, yet conspicuously avoided labeling the actions as plagiarism. The board’s declaration came on the heels of independent academic inquiries that revealed citation lapses but concluded there was no breach of the university’s research integrity standards. Gay herself has taken the initiative to request revisions to her previous works to include previously omitted citations and quotation marks.
The newspaper highlighted the apparent contradiction in Harvard’s messaging, questioning why corrections were necessary if university standards had not been breached. Harvard’s own publicly accessible plagiarism guidelines define the act as using another’s ideas or language without proper accreditation, terming it “stealing,” regardless of intent.
Contrastingly, Harvard’s faculty policies introduce a different criterion for plagiarism, suggesting that it must be done “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” to constitute misconduct.
This discrepancy, as noted by the newspaper, obscures what is typically a straightforward academic principle, potentially leaving room for uncertainty regarding academic expectations, particularly for professors charged with upholding these standards.
An examination by a news outlet discovered instances across multiple papers authored by Gay, spanning from 1993 to 2017, where nearly 20 authors were paraphrased or quoted without appropriate attribution. This included work from her doctoral dissertation. Independent researchers have also highlighted sections they allege fail to adhere to Harvard’s academic integrity policies.
In addition to the plagiarism controversy, Gay has faced criticism for her responses during a congressional hearing on antisemitism within the university context. Questioned about whether calls for violence against Jewish individuals contravened Harvard’s principles, her answers were reportedly ambiguous.
The Harvard Corporation, in a unanimous statement of support, reiterated their backing of Gay’s leadership. They also acknowledged her previous apology for her congressional testimony, emphasizing her commitment to combatting antisemitism and her acknowledgment of the pain caused by terrorism. The university called for direct and unreserved condemnation of calls for genocide, which it described as abhorrent and fundamentally opposed to human values.