Plagiarism Charges Downed Harvard’s President. A Conservative Attack Helped To Fan The Outrage


WASHINGTON (AP) — American higher education has long viewed plagiarism as among the most serious of offenses. Accusations of plagiarism have ruined the careers of academics and undergraduates alike.

The latest target is Harvard President Claudine Gay, who resigned Tuesday.

Reviews by Harvard found multiple shortcomings in Gay’s academic citations, including several instances of “duplicative language.” While the university concluded the errors “were not considered intentional or reckless” and didn’t rise to misconduct, the allegations continued, with new ones as recently as Monday.

Many came not from her academic peers but her political foes, led by conservatives who sought to oust Gay and put her career under intense scrutiny in hopes of finding a fatal flaw. Her detractors charged that Gay — who has a Ph.D. in government, was a professor at Harvard and Stanford and headed Harvard’s largest division before being promoted — got the top job in large part because she is a Black woman.

Christopher Rufo, a conservative activist who helped orchestrate the effort against Gay, celebrated her departure as a win in his campaign against elite institutions of higher education. On X, formerly Twitter, he wrote “SCALPED,” as if Gay was a trophy of violence, invoking a gruesome practice taken up by white colonists who sought to eradicate Native Americans and also used by some tribes against their enemies.