Valedictorian Hornstine Faces More Scrutiny

Blair Hornstine, the high school senior who attracted national attention when she sued to become sole valedictorian at her school, violated her local newspaper’s code of ethics in five stories she wrote for them, according to a correction run yesterday in the Courier-Post of Cherry Hill, N.J.

Hornstine, who plans to enroll at Harvard in September, lifted material from former President Bill Clinton, at least three U.S. Supreme Court justices and multiple other sources without citation, the paper reported.

Hornstine, who sued the Moorestown, N.J. school system to ensure she graduated as her high school’s sole valedictorian, could potentially find her acceptance at Harvard withdrawn. It is not the first problem that Hornstine has encountered at Harvard: after news of her $2.7 million lawsuit came to light, more than 550 students signed an online petition asking that her admission offer be rescinded.

According to Director of Undergraduate Admissions Marlyn McGrath Lewis ’70-’73, an acceptance offer could be withdrawn if a student engages in plagiarism.

Although Lewis declined to comment on any particular case, she said that “several” offers of admission for the Class of 2007 are currently under review. Lewis said offers come under reconsideration for a variety of reasons.

“Most of the time we learn it from the student. Sometimes we hear it from the school. Every once in a while we learn it in the newspaper,” she said.

According to Steven K. Kudatzky ’72, a close friend of the Hornstines and a self-proclaimed family spokesperson, Hornstine sent word to the admissions office informing them of her sourcing problems.

Hornstine sought to explain her actions in a column printed alongside the correction in yesterday’s Courier-Post. She wrote that she was not aware of the paper’s “strict citation scrutiny” and thought sourcing rules for journalism were more lax “because there was no place for footnotes or endnotes.”

In one story published in the Courier-Post in November of last year, Hornstine wrote seven consecutive sentences which are almost identical to excerpts from Clinton’s annual Thanksgiving Proclamations.

Kudatzky, however, defended Hornstine.  “I am confident that, at the end of the day, Harvard will see that this is a non-issue, and, quite frankly, something that is another example of Blair being singled out and victimized,” he said.

When it learned of the Courier-Post’s plagiarism concerns, Hornstine’s high school conducted its own investigation into the student’s academic portfolio, but found no history of academic dishonesty, said Kudatzky.

Hornstine and her family declined to comment.

—Staff writer Elizabeth W. Green can be reached at egreen@fas.harvard.edu.