Harvard's double standard for Gay
Harvard punishes students for plagiarism, but not President Gay
On Tuesday, we started our day by reading an email from the Harvard Corporation saying that President Claudine Gay's decision to copy-and-paste another author’s paragraph into her own work without citation did not violate Harvard’s plagiarism standards. Thirty minutes later, we signed an academic integrity pledge on an exam stating that it was against the Harvard Honor Code to misrepresent another’s work as your own. The whiplash was incredible.
We are four Harvard undergraduates writing this article in an attempt to lay out the facts against Claudine Gay’s presidency and salvage whatever institutional reputation our university may still have. We wish to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation from the university.
As readers may already know, Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay, has come under fire recently under allegations that she plagiarized many of her previous academic publications. On Tuesday morning, the Harvard Corporation contacted the student body about these allegations, writing, “we unanimously stand in support of President Gay.” They stated that they had commissioned an analysis that “found no violation of Harvard’s standards for research misconduct.” We believe this to be inaccurate, and we are confident that we would be suspended by the university if we were to follow similar practices in our own work.
Before showing what Dr. Gay wrote in her past papers, here is an example from Harvard’s academic policy on paraphrasing and plagiarism:
The passage below comes from C. Thi Nguyen’s article, “Echo Chambers and Epistemic Bubbles.”
Epistemic bubbles can easily form accidentally. But the most plausible explanation for the particular features of echo chambers is something more malicious. Echo chambers are excellent tools to maintain, reinforce, and expand power through epistemic control. Thus, it is likely (though not necessary) that echo chambers are set up intentionally, or at least maintained, for this functionality (Nguyen, 2020).
The student who wrote the paraphrase below has drawn these ideas directly from Nguyen’s article but has not credited the author. Although she paraphrased adequately, she is still responsible for citing Nguyen as the source of this information.
Echo chambers and epistemic bubbles have different origins. While epistemic bubbles can be created organically, it’s more likely that echo chambers will be formed by those who wish to keep or even grow their control over the information that people hear and understand.
Note that the above violation still constitutes academic dishonesty and plagiarism by the university’s standards despite not being blatant. Every student at this university, from 18-year-old freshmen to the most advanced graduate students, is held to this standard.
Now here’s what Dr. Gay wrote, with no citation of the source material anywhere in the paper:
This is, of course, a far clearer case of plagiarism than what Harvard’s website defines as the standard for academic dishonesty. Moreover, Dr. Gay flipped the entire conclusion of the source material, changing the word “decrease” to the word “increase.” In total, Dr. Gay has plagiarized in at least five out of her eleven total publications. Veritas, right?
What are the standard punishments for plagiarism dealt out to undergraduates? Of the 99 students found guilty of academic dishonesty (which constitutes many offenses, plagiarism being the most severe) by the University’s Ad Board in the 2021-22 school year, 27 were required to withdraw from the college and 56 were put on probation. The punishments for older students at other Harvard schools are usually a lot more severe. Harvard Law’s website notes, “In a case of academic dishonesty, the Board will begin its deliberations over sanction with a presumption of a one-semester suspension” (emphasis added). Of course, if a student plagiarized in five papers as Dr. Gay did, the punishment would likely be more severe.
We would love to know why, in an email to the Harvard family, the members of the Harvard Corporation deliberately minimized the importance of the president’s misconduct.
When Dr. Gay was announced as the next president of the University, Penny Pritzker (a senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation) said “Claudine is a remarkable leader who is profoundly devoted to sustaining and enhancing Harvard’s academic excellence, to championing both the value and the values of higher education and research, to expanding opportunity, and to strengthening Harvard as a fount of ideas and a force for good in the world.”
Do the members of the Harvard Corporation honestly still believe that Dr. Gay is “strengthening Harvard as... a force for good in the world”? Was she doing that when she testified to Congress that calls for the genocide of Jews would not necessarily constitute harassment? Is she the best possible patron for the “values of higher education and research”? Why is it worth enduring scandal after scandal just to keep her in power? How can Harvard argue that it is a top university in the world when its top executive displays conduct that would get most high school students in serious trouble?
Dr. Gay’s floundering response to the Hamas terrorist attacks on October 7th and the following proliferation of anti-semitism on campus has inextricably linked the Harvard name with anti-semitism, even though most Harvard students abhor the actions of that loud minority. Some employers have noted a general distaste for hiring Harvard students, and while others have specified that they won’t hire members of clubs that support Hamas, differentiating which students are in those clubs is nearly impossible. With Harvard’s biggest donors refusing to continue giving to the university, it might have to slash financial aid for the students that need it most.
Dr. Gay has damaged the institution we love. Worst of all, Dr. Gay is merely getting started. She is now poised to spend the rest of her tenure molding the university to reflect her twisted values, all while Harvard continues to slip down the college rankings and students suffer. It will be a shame if Harvard’s students, alumni, donors, and faculty allow her to get away with it.