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Harvard Corporation Breaks Silence, Stating Support for Gay While Addressing Plagiarism Allegations

Harvard President Claudine Gay received the support of the University's top governing board in a statement Tuesday.
Harvard President Claudine Gay received the support of the University's top governing board in a statement Tuesday. By Julian J. Giordano
By Miles J. Herszenhorn and Claire Yuan, Crimson Staff Writers

The Harvard Corporation expressed concerns about allegations of plagiarism in University President Claudine Gay’s academic work Tuesday morning, even as the board declared its unanimous support for Harvard’s embattled president, providing Gay with a path forward to remain in office.

“As members of the Harvard Corporation, we today reaffirm our support for President Gay’s continued leadership of Harvard University,” the board wrote in a University-wide statement on Tuesday. “In this tumultuous and difficult time, we unanimously stand in support of President Gay.”

The Corporation — the University’s highest governing body — finally broke its silence one week after Gay’s controversial congressional testimony, giving Gay some immediate job security while raising new questions about the integrity of her scholarly work and bringing into doubt whether her tenure will be safe in the long term.

While the Corporation said it did not believe that the allegations amount to misconduct, it announced that Gay agreed to amend two publications.

“On December 9, the Fellows reviewed the results, which revealed a few instances of inadequate citation,” the Fellows wrote. “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.”

In the statement, the Corporation revealed that it learned about the plagiarism allegations against Gay in late October. The board’s concerns also call into question the presidential search committee’s vetting process for the search that ended in Gay’s selection less than one year ago.

Harvard President Claudine Gay, pictured hugging Senior Fellow Penny S. Pritzker '81, was announced for the role less than one year ago.
Harvard President Claudine Gay, pictured hugging Senior Fellow Penny S. Pritzker '81, was announced for the role less than one year ago. By J. Sellers Hill

The concerns raised by Harvard’s highest governing body about the plagiarism allegations against Gay mark a head-spinning twist in the controversy surrounding Gay’s tumultuous first semester as president.

While some speculated the Corporation might oust Gay over her response to the Israel-Hamas war, the statement on Tuesday suggests the academic dishonesty allegations might prove more perilous to the future of Gay’s presidency.

Manhattan Institute for Policy Research fellow and right-wing activist Christopher F. Rufo and journalist Christopher Brunet published a Substack post Sunday accusing Gay of plagiarizing portions of her 1997 dissertation.

Rufo and Brunet wrote that the paper “lifts an entire paragraph nearly verbatim” from a paper by Harvard Dean of Social Science Lawrence D. Bobo and University of North Carolina at Greensboro Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam.

They also allege that Gay failed to cite work from political scientist Carol M. Swain and Harvard professor Gary King, who was Gay’s dissertation adviser. Prominent academics — including Bobo and King — publicly pushed back on the claims, though they have continued to gain steam on social media.

The Washington Free Beacon reported plagiarism allegations concerning several additional published works spanning Gay’s scholarly career later that evening.

Gay defended her academic work in a statement on Monday.

“I stand by the integrity of my scholarship,” Gay wrote. “Throughout my career, I have worked to ensure my scholarship adheres to the highest academic standards.”

Gay has faced sustained criticism over the past two months. She first came under fire for the University’s initial response to the Israel-Hamas war, and later more backlash after her testimony before a House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing about antisemitism on college campuses.

In the statement, the Fellows addressed the criticism over Gay’s remarks during the testimony.

“So many people have suffered tremendous damage and pain because of Hamas’s brutal terrorist attack, and the University’s initial statement should have been an immediate, direct, and unequivocal condemnation,” the Fellows wrote. “Calls for genocide are despicable and contrary to fundamental human values.”

“President Gay has apologized for how she handled her congressional testimony and has committed to redoubling the University’s fight against antisemitism,” they added.

—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at Follow him on X @mherszenhorn or on Threads @mileshersz.

—Staff writer Claire Yuan can be reached at Follow her on X @claireyuan33.

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