Debate over plagiarism allegations against Claudine Kay increases pressure on Harvard

After weeks of turmoil at Harvard over the university’s response to the Israel-Hamas war and the leadership of its president, Claudine Kay, there was no shortage of interest at a faculty forum with Dr. Kay this week.

At a town hall held Tuesday on Zoom with several hundred members of the arts and sciences faculty, Dr. Kay focused on how to overcome the deep divisions that have emerged on campus as a result of the war, two people who attended said. and requested confidentiality due to the sensitivity of the situation.

Faculty members who spoke at the meeting were mostly positive, and there were no questions about Dr. Kay’s academic record after public allegations of plagiarism. A professor said the matter was not even raised.

But by Thursday, fresh questions about Dr. Kay’s scholarship had come to the fore, with the university later Wednesday identifying two more instances of what it called “duplicate language without appropriate attribution” from his 1997 doctoral dissertation.

These examples are part of a flurry of accusations of plagiarism against Dr. Kay over the past two weeks, driven by conservative activists and news outlets, as he has been criticized for failing to take a tougher stance against anti-Semitism during a tense Congress. The House was convened this month by Republicans.

The latest round of allegations has emboldened Dr Kay’s critics and strained his supporters, while leaving some students and teachers confused.

“As a Harvard student, the whole scandal from start to finish was very embarrassing,” Harvard senior Daniel Vega said Thursday. “I think it’s a tough look for us.”

Mr. Vega, a classics and philosophy major while writing her thesis, said she and her classmates have been closely watching the plagiarism allegations against Dr. Kay and her handling of anti-Semitism. However, he said it did not escape him that the charges were being leveled by right-wing rebels.

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Recent developments raise questions about the Harvard Corporation. The board a few days ago cleared Dr K for “research misconduct”.

Harvard’s board first addressed the allegations against Dr. K on December 12. The board said an investigation by independent scholars in response to anonymous allegations received in late October found “a few inadequate citations.” His published work. Those incidents, the board said, did not rise to the level of “research misconduct.” The board said that Dr. K would seek four amendments in two articles.

Later Wednesday, the committee said it also looked at its 1997 research paper, which was not part of the original review, and found two additional instances of “duplicate language without appropriate attribution.” The university said those incidents also did not amount to “research misconduct” but would be redacted in Dr. Kay’s dissertation.

Asked Thursday whether the Harvard Corporation stood by Dr. Kay, a university spokeswoman reiterated that. Dec. 12 Unanimous report of support. Dr K refused to be interviewed.

Allegations of plagiarism against Dr. Kay ranged from brief snippets of technical definitions to brief summaries of other scholars’ work without quotation marks or direct citations in her dissertation and up to half of the 11 journal articles listed on her resume. In one mocking example, Dr. K borrowed the exact phrases from the acknowledgments section of another author’s book in the acknowledgments section of his own dissertation to thank his mentor and family.

He was not charged with more serious violations, such as falsifying data or stealing another scholar’s original research or ideas.

However, the series of allegations has left some faculty members personally concerned. And some have begun to speak out more forcefully, questioning whether Dr K can effectively carry out presidential duties.

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“You have to be practical, not ideological,” Avi Loeb, a science professor who criticized Dr. Kay’s previous congressional testimony, said Thursday. “If she can’t accomplish the goals she has to pursue as a university president, it’s clear what needs to be done.”

Some major donors remain agitated. Ukrainian-born billionaire Len Blavatnik, who adorns an institute at Harvard Medical School, decided in recent weeks to stop giving more because he was unhappy with the school’s response to anti-Semitic incidents on campus, a spokeswoman said. Given more than $200 million, Mr. Blavatnik’s family will not resume the donation “until anti-Semitism at Harvard is addressed with real action,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Mr. Blavatnik’s decision was reported earlier via Bloomberg.

In a note to colleagues that he shared with the New York Times, Eugene I., professor of chemistry and chemical biology. Shaknovich wrote that Dr. Kay’s tenure as president was “unsustainable for Harvard.”

“Claudine Kay is a great liability to Harvard and an implication for higher education in America,” he wrote. Right “His presidency was a great Christmas present”.

Nevertheless, debate continued on campus as to whether the allegations against Dr. K were serious enough to warrant further action.

Randall Kennedy, a Harvard law scholar, said Thursday that his support for Dr. Kay was “unwavering.”

The allegations against him, he said, were brought to light by “professional defamation”. He urged the university to “clarify the idea of ​​theft and differentiate between different levels of crime”.

He also suggested that Harvard leadership would refuse to cooperate further with a congressional investigation into the university.

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To meet Harvard’s standard of “research misconduct,” which leads to severe sanctions, violations must be “intentional, knowing, or reckless,” according to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ regulations.

Daniel Swinton, a former assistant dean for academic integrity at Vanderbilt University who is now a college counselor and expert witness, emphasized that intent is key. “I didn’t read anything that said she stole someone’s idea, she passed it all on her own,” he said.

The allegation that Dr K had copied phrases from his dissertation with the consent of another author struck him as “horrific”. But endorsements, he said, are the “hallmark card of academia” and the stock language is consistent.

While the president of a university may be held to a higher standard than a student, “whether we should expect perfection from them, the answer is no,” said Mr. Swindon said.

Harvard’s campus, which has been the scene of intense protests for weeks, was cold and quiet on Thursday as finals ended and winter break began. Only a few tourists wandered the quiet grounds.

Remy Furrer, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School, said he thought Dr. K was “taking a certain amount of accountability by requesting some changes to his published research.” But, he said, “it’s important that academic standards are applied equally to all teachers, leaders and students.”

Spencer Glassman, a Harvard senior, said it was impossible to say whether Dr. K had crossed a line. But he understood the need to scrutinize allegations of plagiarism.

“It sets the standard for the seriousness of the university,” he said. “The president has to be kind of impeachable.”

Rob Copeland, Kitty Bennet, Anna BettsMatthew Eadie and Cici Yongshi Yu contributed reporting.

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