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Harvard President Claudine Gay to Submit 3 Additional Corrections, Corporation Says Improper Citations Fall Short of Research Misconduct

Claudine Gay will request three corrections to her 1997 Ph.D. dissertation.
Claudine Gay will request three corrections to her 1997 Ph.D. dissertation. By Julian J. Giordano
By Tilly R. Robinson and Neil H. Shah, Crimson Staff Writers

Updated: December 20, 2023, at 10:50 p.m.

Harvard President Claudine Gay will request three corrections to her 1997 Ph.D. dissertation in the latest series of updates Gay has submitted amid mounting allegations of plagiarism.

The new corrections were announced Wednesday evening in a summary of a review undertaken by the Harvard Corporation — the University’s highest governing body — into Gay’s academic work after they became aware of the plagiarism allegations.

The additional corrections come less than one week after the University announced that Gay submitted four corrections across two articles that were the subjects of the Corporation’s initial review.

The review — by both an independent panel of three experts and a subcommittee of the Harvard Corporation — found evidence that Gay did not cite properly in some instances but that her actions fell short of more serious wrongdoing, according to the summary.

Still, Gay’s decision to request corrections to her Ph.D. dissertation marks another serious setback for Harvard’s embattled leader as she reaches the end of a disastrous first semester in office.

In less than six months as president, Gay has faced fierce criticism over her response to the Israel-Hamas war, navigated an onslaught of plagiarism allegations, and watched the Corporation consider calls for her resignation.

The summary of the review paints the clearest picture to date of the Corporation’s decision-making behind requesting the corrections, outlining the timeline of when the body learned about the plagiarism allegations against Gay and explaining why it has not taken further action against her.

Harvard’s top brass were notified about plagiarism allegations against Gay through a media inquiry from the New York Post on Oct. 24, according to the summary.

Five days later, on Oct. 29, Gay asked the Corporation to independently investigate the allegations, and the board created a four-person subcommittee to “consider the merit of the anonymous allegations” brought forth by the Post.

According to the summary, the Corporation decided to undertake a review of the plagiarism allegations against Gay because the University’s research integrity offices ultimately report to the Office of the President, which could create “the potential for the appearance of a conflict of interest.”

On Nov. 2, the Corporation appointed an independent three-person expert panel to conduct the review. The members of the panel “have no ties to Harvard and are among the nation’s most respected political scientists,” according to the summary.

The panel analyzed the specific anonymous allegations raised by the New York Post’s media inquiry, with the Corporation’s subcommittee undertaking a more comprehensive review of “all of President Gay’s other published works from 1993 to 2019.”

The subcommittee, however, did not initially consider Gay’s Harvard dissertation as they had not received related allegations at the time and were focused on reviewing her published work, the summary stated.

The review, according to the summary, was performed under the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ interim research misconduct policy — adopted in 2019 and still in place. Per the policy, a research misconduct finding requires evidence that the disputed action was taken “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” — which, per the summary, the Corporation’s review did not find.

Though a 1993 article Gay published in historical magazine Origins was initially examined by the review, the independent panel and the Corporation subcommittee decided the article was outside its scope because it was published 30 years ago in a journal that did not typically include citations or quotations, according to the summary.

The Crimson independently verified that articles in the May 1993 issue of Origins — published the same year as Gay’s article — did not include citations. The Crimson was unable to immediately review other issues of the magazine.

Following recent reports of alleged plagiarism in Gay’s dissertation, which the University wrote was not included in the Post’s initial comment request, the subcommittee also reviewed her dissertation.

The group found three instances of “inadequate citation” in Gay’s dissertation, one of which was nearly identical to “a missing citation or quotation mark that had already been identified in a published paper” — her 2001 article “The Effect of Black Congressional Representation on Political Participation” — which Gay has already corrected.

The University’s summary on Wednesday described the two additional instances found by the subcommittee as “duplicative language without appropriate attribution.”

According to the summary, Gay will submit three correction requests to Harvard’s Office of the Provost regarding her dissertation.

She will request to add “quotations and/or citations” that address language drawn from a paper presented by Bradley Palmquist and D. Stephen Voss at a 1996 conference and a 1981 American Political Science Review article by Richard D. Shingles.

Gay will also update citations in her dissertation to a 1990 paper by Lawrence Bobo and Franklin D. Gilliam — the same correction she requested for her 2001 article.

The summary also addressed an anonymous complaint submitted to the FAS’ Research Integrity Office, which was first reported by the Washington Free Beacon on Tuesday, that included previously unreported allegations of plagiarism.

According to the summary, the anonymous complaint included “four new allegations” that the Corporation subcommittee and the independent panel had not previously reviewed.

The subcommittee, however, determined the four new allegations “to be without merit.”

“The subcommittee of the Corporation has determined that no further action is required beyond the updates that have been and are being requested by President Gay,” the summary stated.

—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at tilly.robinson@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at neil.shah@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @neilhshah15 or on Threads @kne.els.

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