Harvard defends its former president’s plagiarism investigation

In a report to a congressional committee released Friday, Harvard provided the most detailed account yet of its handling of plagiarism allegations against Claudine Gay, who resigned as university president this month.

The basic outlines of the saga were known, but Harvard did not disclose many details, raising questions about the impartiality and rigor of its investigation.

In its report, Harvard defended the thoroughness of its plagiarism review. It was said that the external commission determined that the works of dr. Gay “sophisticated and original”, with “virtually no evidence of deliberate search for finds” that were not her own, even though he found a pattern of double language in three papers.

But his account also shows the university’s board of trustees has been slow to do a full accounting of her work. Instead, for several weeks, Harvard struggled to investigate a steady stream of plagiarism allegations, unable to provide an immediate, authoritative answer to questions about Dr.’s scholarship. Gaya.

The report is part of a broader Harvard filing, made in response to a Letter of 20 December from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which is investigating allegations of plagiarism and anti-Semitism against the university. That committee held the now infamous campus anti-Semitism debate at which Drs. Gay and two other college presidents criticized for their legalistic responses to questions about anti-Semitism.

The committee said it is currently reviewing Harvard’s submissions. So far, only the plagiarism report has been made public.

Harvard’s account begins on Oct. 24, when a New York Post reporter is said to have approached the university about allegations of plagiarism.

The Post presented Harvard with a list of 25 passages for which Dr. Gay, a political scientist, accused of plagiarizing them, from three articles she wrote. One article was dated 1993, when she was a graduate student, and the others were dated 2012 and 2017, when she was in college, the report states.

Harvard, according to the report, reached out to several of the authors she was accused of plagiarizing — “none of whom objected to then-President Gay’s language.”

The university formed subcommittees to guide the audit, with the help of lawyers. Members of the subcommittee were Biddy Martin, former president of Amherst College; Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, former California Supreme Court Justice; Shirley Tilghman, former president of Princeton University; and Theodore V. Wells Jr., a partner in the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison.

The subcommission then appointed a three-member external council. The summary describes the panel members as tenured faculty members at prominent research institutions, and two are past presidents of the American Political Science Association.

They asked that their identities be kept secret, Harvard said. But the House committee, which has the power to subpoena witnesses, could still seek their names.

The independent commission did not perform a complete audit of the work of dr. Gaya. He considered only the allegations shared by The Post and compared three articles by Dr. Gaya with 11 papers by other scientists, the report said.

The panel found that there was “virtually no evidence of an intentional search for findings that did not belong to President Gay,” the report said.

But he expresses concern about the pattern of repeating the language. And dr. Gay, who stood by her scholarship, had to make some corrections in quotations and citations.

The review appeared, briefly, to dismiss the charges, and the university’s governing board, the Harvard Corporation, endorsed her continued presidency.

But by then, new accusations appeared on social networks, this time in connection with the dissertation of Dr. Gaya. The Harvard report says the subcommittee “quickly” reviewed her dissertation, and Dr. Gay had to submit some corrections to it.

An additional complaint was filed with Harvard’s Office of Research Integrity on Dec. 19, but no additional corrections were required, the account said.

Two weeks later, she came out.

The Harvard report acknowledged that the university did not handle the review perfectly, suggesting the university was in crisis as it faced uproar over its handling of anti-Semitism on campus.

“These allegations come at a time of unprecedented events and tensions on campus and globally,” the report said. “We understand and acknowledge that many have viewed our efforts as insufficiently transparent, which raises questions about our process and standard of review.”

On Friday, Harvard also announced new rules to curb student protests.

In a message shortly before college classes began Monday, Harvard said demonstrations would not be permitted in classrooms, libraries, dormitories or dining halls without permission. Instead, the protests are limited to “yards, quads and other similar spaces” and cannot prevent students from walking to class.

The clarification did not directly address the issue raised in the congressional hearing that contributed to the resignation of Dr. Gaya: If protesters chant slogans like “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” — which many supporters of Israel interpret as a call to wipe out Israel — it would be against Harvard’s code of conduct.

Annie Carney contributed to the reporting.

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