House GOP Investigating Plagiarism Allegations Against Harvard President

Harvard’s first Black president has been under pressure to resign.

The GOP-led House Education and Workforce Committee will expand its investigation of Harvard president Claudine Gay on allegations that she committed plagiarism in her academic work.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, the North Carolina Republican who chairs the committee, sent a letter Wednesday (Dec. 20) to Harvard Corporation Senior Fellow Penny Pritzker saying that the Education Committee is reviewing how Harvard handled the “credible allegations” of plagiarism and asked if the university holds faculty to the same standards it demands of students.

“Our concern is that standards are not being applied consistently, resulting in different rules for different members of the academic community,” the letter states. “If a university is willing to look the other way and not hold faculty accountable for engaging in academically dishonest behavior, it cheapens its mission and the value of its education.” 

Claudine Gay Becomes First Black President Of Harvard University

The Harvard Corporation, the governing board that hired Gay, announced on Dec. 12 that it cleared her of plagiarism after an independent review found “a few instances of inadequate citation” that did not violate Harvard’s standards.

But on Wednesday (Dec. 20), the university said it had found two additional instances of insufficient citations in Gay’s 1997 doctoral dissertation, The New York Times reports.

“President Gay will update her dissertation correcting these instances of inadequate citation,” the university said, referring to the additional findings.

According to The Times, Gay is not accused of falsifying data or stealing ideas and research from other scholars, which are considered serious offenses. At issue is the lack of quotation marks or citations, such as her brief snippets of technical definitions and lightly paraphrased summaries of other scholars’ work.

Harvard’s first Black president has been under a microscope since the committee called her and two other elite university presidents to testify at a Dec. 5 congressional hearing on campus antisemitism.

Gay and the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology faced backlash after they told lawmakers that context matters when deciding if calling for the genocide of Jews would violate their school’s code of conduct.

There were widespread calls for the presidents to resign. University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill stepped down on Dec. 9 under pressure to resign.

Nikole Hannah-Jones Blasts Attacks On Harvard's Claudine Gay As Racist

Gay apologized for her remarks at the hearing, which didn’t satisfy her critics. Many said she was appointed president because she’s Black, satisfying the university’s diversity and inclusion policy.

However, the Harvard Corporation voted to retain the besieged president. “In this tumultuous and difficult time, we unanimously stand in support of President Gay,” the board said in its Dec. 12 statement.

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