Harvard Says Claudine Gay Will Remain President

The Harvard Corporation also addressed allegations of plagiarism against Gay.
December 12, 2023
Dr. Claudine Gay (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Despite calls for her removal, Harvard University announced on Tuesday that Claudine Gay will remain in her position as the university’s president.

The Harvard Corporation’s governing board said in a statement that they “reaffirm our support for President Gay’s continued leadership of Harvard University. Our extensive deliberations affirm our confidence that President Gay is the right leader to help our community heal and to address the very serious societal issues we are facing.” The governing board did acknowledge that the university’s first statement regarding the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre “should have been an immediate, direct, and unequivocal condemnation” and that “Gay has apologized for how she handled her congressional testimony and has committed to redoubling the University’s fight against antisemitism.”

Gay has been under fire after saying in congressional testimony that it depends “on the context” as to whether calls for genocide against Jews violates university policy. University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill resigned from her position over the weekend after giving similar testimony. In her apology, Gay told The Harvard Crimson that she “got caught up in what had become at that point, an extended, combative exchange about policies and procedures. What I should have had the presence of mind to do in that moment was return to my guiding truth, which is that calls for violence against our Jewish community — threats to our Jewish students — have no place at Harvard, and will never go unchallenged. Substantively, I failed to convey what is my truth.”

The Harvard Corporation also addressed allegations of plagiarism against Gay. “The University became aware in late October of allegations regarding three articles,” the governing body said. “At President Gay’s request, the Fellows promptly initiated an independent review by distinguished political scientists and conducted a review of her published work. On December 9, the Fellows reviewed the results, which revealed a few instances of inadequate citation. While the analysis found no violation of Harvard’s standards for research misconduct, President Gay is proactively requesting four corrections in two articles to insert citations and quotation marks that were omitted from the original publications.”

The Harvard Corporation’s statement concluded: “In this tumultuous and difficult time, we unanimously stand in support of President Gay. At Harvard, we champion open discourse and academic freedom, and we are united in our strong belief that calls for violence against our students and disruptions of the classroom experience will not be tolerated. Harvard’s mission is advancing knowledge, research, and discovery that will help address deep societal issues and promote constructive discourse, and we are confident that President Gay will lead Harvard forward toward accomplishing this vital work.”

Harvard’s decision to stick with Gay was met with severe criticism.

“President Gay survives to continue as university president, but will Jewish students on campus survive her tenure? Will Harvard finally act against harassment of Jewish students?” Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement. “We await Title VI investigation to hold Harvard accountable for its double standard against Jews. As for calls for genocide against Jews, it depends on ‘context?’ Sooner or later President Gay and the policies she backs will have to go.”

StopAntisemitism posted on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Just as President Claudine Gay failed to protect her students from rampant antisemitism, the Harvard Corporation has failed to hold her accountable. Despite its begrudging and belated apologies, Harvard richly deserves the Congressional investigation to which it is currently subject, having lost all credibility on matters of antisemitism. The Corporation’s decision serves only to greenlight more Jew-hatred on campus. StopAntisemitism continues to call for President Gay’s resignation, and urges the Corporation to reconsider its decision and hire someone who is committed to protecting every Harvard student.”

Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor and Higginson Professor of Physiology and Medicine Jeffrey Flier posted on X that Gay and the Harvard Corporation should follow the suggestions outlined in a recent op-ed by Harvard Psychology Professor Steven Pinker, including adopting “a new policy on institutional neutrality as relates to political and social issues,” clarifying “policies to rule out use of violence and intimidation within classrooms and public spaces, and establish meaningful consequences for their violation” and “a serious, data-driven review of DEI policies and administration to clarify those elements that reflect initial and widely supported goals to appropriately promote and achieve diversity and inclusion along many dimensions, while identifying those areas where programs have failed to meet identified and valid objectives.”

“I stand ready to support President Gay in addressing these goals, and others that she may identify as being critical in the course of her efforts,” Flier added.

Regarding the plagiarism allegations, The Manhattan Institute’s Christopher Rufo and The American Conservative Contributing Editor Chris Brunet alleged on Sunday that Gay “plagiarized multiple sections of her Ph.D. thesis.” The Washington Free Beacon claimed shortly thereafter that they found four papers authored by Gay between 1993-2017 in which she “paraphrased or quoted nearly 20 authors—including two of her colleagues in Harvard University’s department of government—without proper attribution.” Following the Harvard Corporation’s statement backing Gay, Rufo posted on X, “They’re lying and they know it. Even Harvard’s student paper ‘independently reviewed the published allegations’ of plagiarism and found that ‘some appear to violate Harvard’s current policies around plagiarism and academic integrity.’”

The Harvard Crimson reported on Tuesday that they investigated the allegations and that while “some are minor — consisting of passages that are similar or identical to Gay’s sources, lacking quotation marks but including citations — others are more substantial, including some paragraphs and sentences nearly identical to other work and lacking citations. Some appear to violate Harvard’s current policies around plagiarism and academic integrity.”

The Crimson talked to some of the authors that Gay has been accused of plagiarizing, including political scientist Dr. Carol Swain. Swain told the student paper that the sections in question “would qualify as plagiarism under Harvard’s own rules.” Swain posted on X that she was “angry” about “the racial double standards that are TEMPORARILY giving #ClaudineGay an opportunity to resign. White progressives created her and white progressives are protecting her. The rest of us have had to work our rear ends off to achieve success. Some get it handed to them.”

Other authors that Gay allegedly plagiarized told the Crimson that they didn’t think the sections in question amounted to plagiarism. One author, Harvard Kennedy School Professor Jeffrey Liebman, told the paper, “It is not surprising when two researchers describe the same statistical procedure or the same government program using similar language.” UC Irvine Professor Emily Owens also told the paper that “the phrases in question are a brief description of how someone aggregates a variable and a summary observation about a specific technical point” and thus are not plagiarism.

The New York Post was similarly told by other authors that they did not believe that Gay plagiarized their work. However, they did talk to one author, Miami University in Ohio Political Science Professor Anne Williamson, who felt that Gay did plagiarize parts of a paper that Williamson wrote in 2011.

“It does look like plagiarism to me,” Williamson told the Post. “If they are going to do what they did, then I should be cited as a reference. My first reaction is shock. The second reaction is puzzlement. There was a way to draw from my paper. All she had to do is give me a credit.”

The Crimson further reported that some of the plagiarism allegations had initially percolated “on anonymous academia forums over the past year” and that the allegations “are sure to cast even more doubt on the embattled president’s fitness for the job, even if she is not in imminent danger of losing it.” Gay had said in a statement on Monday that she stands “by the integrity of my scholarship. Throughout my career, I have worked to ensure my scholarship adheres to the highest academic standards.

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