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(62,084 posts)
Thu Jan 4, 2024, 10:13 PM Jan 2024

The plagiarism accusations against Dr. Gay, explained

Gift article, no paywall:


....Though rumors had circulated earlier on anonymous academic forums, the allegations became more widely publicized last month, after Gay and two other university presidents drew public scrutiny for their congressional testimony about antisemitism on college campuses.

On Dec. 10, conservative activist Christopher Rufo and Christopher Brunet, a contributing editor at the American Conservative, wrote on Substack alleging that, as a doctoral candidate at Harvard in the 1990s, Gay had plagiarized sections of her political science dissertation. Rufo said on the social media site X that he and Brunet had been “waiting for the precise moment of maximum impact” before publishing their post, saying that “there are rumors that the plagiarism scandal could be the final nail in Gay’s coffin.”

On Dec. 11, the Washington Free Beacon reported finding “29 potential cases of plagiarism” in Gay’s dissertation and three other papers. On Dec. 12, the New York Post published a story featuring two additional instances of alleged plagiarism in one of those articles.
On Dec. 19 and Jan. 1, the Free Beacon published two anonymous complaints filed with Harvard, detailing 47 incidents of alleged plagiarism by Gay.
[Harvard resignation is a win for conservative Washington Free Beacon]

The reports published in various outlets collect nearly 50 instances in which Gay allegedly misused academic sources. They appear in eight of her works: a 1993 essay in the magazine Origins, her dissertation from 1997, a 2001 working paper, and five articles she published while a professor at Stanford and Harvard (out of a total of 11 journal publications across her career).

The alleged misuse varies in scope. In some places, it appears that Gay took verbatim wording — ranging from sentences to paragraphs — from academics she cited, but without placing that text in quotation marks. In others, she appears to have paraphrased or lightly modified the texts she drew on, without citing the source in the same sentence or paragraph. In a few cases, she did not make any mention of her source.


The article goes on to show some examples of Dr. Gay's work and the work of others, side by side.

I thought this was a helpful article in terms of explaining more about the specifics of the accusations.

11 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
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The plagiarism accusations against Dr. Gay, explained (Original Post) yardwork Jan 2024 OP
WaPo Ruth Marcus did a good job question everything Jan 2024 #1
That was a good column. yardwork Jan 2024 #2
The irony is that presidents of universities do not have to be scholars. That being a good manager is more important question everything Jan 2024 #3
Being a good fundraiser is job #1 for a university president. former9thward Jan 2024 #4
And, another irony is that Republicans are pushing for politicians to lead universities. yardwork Jan 2024 #6
So hire somebody without a PhD. Igel Jan 2024 #9
As a retired professor at a top research univ., I take issue spooky3 Jan 2024 #5
Those are very good points. yardwork Jan 2024 #7
Thank you! spooky3 Jan 2024 #8
Well said. H2O Man Jan 2024 #10
Thanks, and I totally agree. Nt spooky3 Jan 2024 #11


(62,084 posts)
2. That was a good column.
Thu Jan 4, 2024, 10:32 PM
Jan 2024

This is an instance where a lot of seemingly conflicting things are true at the same time.

Yes, right wingers went after Claudine Gay - they're openly bragging about it - and it's clear that their motivations are not pure, they're not interested in academic integrity or antisemitism, they just saw a way to get rid of somebody they didn't like. And many of the reasons they didn't like her stem from racism and misogyny. And eff Elise Stefanik.

But, at the same time, Dr. Gay's publication record is very thin for a political scientist at this stage in her career! And, these examples of plagiarism on top of her thin publication history - this is a concern. As president of an elite research university, her job is to lead and represent the values and ideals of her institution.

My biggest worry is that this incident is just the latest in a barrage of attacks on universities - usually coming from the right - that make me wonder if they can survive. Who would want the job of university president, especially in this age of social media?

question everything

(47,881 posts)
3. The irony is that presidents of universities do not have to be scholars. That being a good manager is more important
Thu Jan 4, 2024, 10:52 PM
Jan 2024

From the WSJ, of all places

Zach Smith, executive partner for the education-market search firm WittKieffer, said that while faculty often want a president pulled from the professorial ranks, the day-to-day job duties require a very different skill set than being an academic.

“They’re high-level, executive roles,” said Smith, who has worked on about 50 presidential searches. “What’s required to be successful is political savvy, fundraising, being able to sit across the table from some of the biggest donors in the world.”


(subscription, but this is only one sentence from a long story)


(32,434 posts)
4. Being a good fundraiser is job #1 for a university president.
Thu Jan 4, 2024, 10:57 PM
Jan 2024

Ms. Gay's failings, serious or not, made that job untenable to the Harvard Corporation.


(35,566 posts)
9. So hire somebody without a PhD.
Thu Jan 4, 2024, 11:50 PM
Jan 2024

You want a university to be a business with students as customers and faculty as mere employees, be clear.

"Seeking person for management position; 15 years high-powered experience, must be able to subordinate employees and negotiate well with government and organizational presidents. No research, academic, or advanced university experience required. Successful applicant will be bottom-line driver and work to enhance the organizations profile and image."

And welcome to the University of Phoenix. The search for profit and image is all; truth is found in the P&L.

There's a fine line between a university as an academic institution and a bankrupt one; there's fine line between a university as an academic institution and a corporate one. But there's not a fine line between a university as an organization devoted to the pursuit of truth and knowledge and one that's devoted to political and financial prominence.


(34,720 posts)
5. As a retired professor at a top research univ., I take issue
Thu Jan 4, 2024, 11:04 PM
Jan 2024

With the comments about the strength of her academic record (which many people have made).

Most of her publications have appeared in the highest quality political science journals and have good to excellent citation counts (see Google Scholar). Most top schools would much prefer quality and impact over a long list of publications appearing in lesser outlets. I had colleagues who were full professors, in some cases chaired professors, with fewer citations. They had “enough” articles, but relatively few people in their fields seemed to be influenced much by their work.

But maybe more importantly: Dr. Gay entered full time, high level administrative roles (including a deanship) at a young age. Her record at the time she entered these roles looks comparable to many records at the same stage. I have held admin roles that required more than 60 hours per week, leaving little time for research (which is why I didn’t stay in admin). People generally don’t expect deans etc. to publish much, if at all, because they have so much other work to do.

The fact that she was promoted to Pres is a pretty good indication that she did a more than competent job in these prior demanding roles. This experience is extremely important for Pres candidates, though some universities are willing to appoint presidents with business or political careers and non existent (or much thinner than Gay’s) research records.

Finally, it is not unusual for white male high level admins to have much “worse” research records than hers. Check out the record of Gordon Gee, as one of many examples. He has led several prestigious universities but has no more than a handful of articles appearing in good journals.

H2O Man

(74,054 posts)
10. Well said.
Thu Jan 4, 2024, 11:57 PM
Jan 2024

I had a conversation with a fellow I don't know on a boxing forum on Tuesday. He mentioned the influence of racism back in 1965. I said that we are seeing a rise in this type of ignorant hatred in today's society. It has saturated much of society today, even reaching high places.

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