Harvard Itself Unearthed New Case of Plagiarism Not Included In Previous Allegations—After Threatening To Sue New York Post Alleging Allegations Were ‘Demonstrably False’

Claudine Gay, the university’s president, lifted language from a 1981 article without using quotation marks.

Claudine Gay (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
December 23, 2023

Harvard University’s review of the plagiarism allegations against its president, Claudine Gay, unearthed a new case of what the university called "inadequate citation" that was not included in any of the documents sent to the school, raising fresh questions about the scope of her misconduct amid a steady drip of damaging revelations.

The new example comes from Gay’s dissertation, where she quoted a 1981 article by Richard Shingles, "Black Consciousness and Political Participation: The Missing Link," without proper attribution, Harvard told the Chronicle of Higher Education on Wednesday. 

But Shingles, now an emeritus professor at Virginia Tech, was never named in the allegations Harvard received—either from an anonymous whistleblower on Tuesday or from the New York Post in late October. 

Harvard elided that novelty in its statement to the Chronicle, listing the new example alongside previously reported ones as if it had already been flagged for the school. Harvard did not respond to a request to comment.

The new example, for which Gay has requested a correction, underscores just how long the list of 40-plus allegations has grown and the possibility that it could grow longer still. It also highlights the weaselly way in which Harvard has sought to downplay the charges, using mealy-mouthed terms like "duplicative language" or, in the case of Shingles’s paper, camouflaging the results of its own probe. 

Though Harvard said Gay would add a citation to page 76 of Shingles’s article, it did not specify which passage she had lifted or what made her attribution "inadequate." But the Washington Free Beacon has identified what appears to be the passage in question.

Shingles, Richard D. "Black Consciousness and Political Participation: The Missing Link." The American Political Science Review, vol. 75, no. 1, 1981, pp. 76:

"Starting with the work of Gurin and Gamson, this article theorizes that black consciousness contributes to political mistrust and a sense of internal political efficacy which in turn encourages policy-related participation."

Gay, Claudine. Taking Charge: Black Electoral Success and the Redefinition of American Politics. Dissertation submitted to the Department of Government, Harvard University, 1997, p. 12:

"Race consciousness, Shingles (1981) had argued, contributed to political mistrust and a sense of internal political efficacy which in turn encouraged policy-­related participation."

Gay cites Shingles in the sentence but omits quotation marks around verbatim language. A subcommittee of the Harvard Corporation, the university governing body, found that this example—among the least severe uncovered so far—nonetheless warranted a correction. 

Shingles did not respond to a request for comment.

The finding comes as Harvard’s board is under growing scrutiny for its handling of the allegations, which it initially tried to squash with a legal threat to the New York Postbefore the school had even begun reviewing Gay’s work

"These allegations of plagiarism are demonstrably false," Clare Locke, the pugnacious law firm retained by Harvard and Gay, wrote to the Post in late October, adding that it would sue for "immense damages" if an article was published. "The so-called ‘plagiarized works’ are both cited and properly credited."

Clare Locke reiterated that the allegations were false in a Nov. 7 letter to the Post, by which point the university had launched its own undisclosed probe. 

That probe violated Harvard’s policies for investigating research misconduct and did not cover all the allegations the school had received. In its Wednesday statement, the university said that its review excluded Gay’s 1993 article, "Between Black and White: The Complexity of Brazilian Race Relations," where some of the most clear-cut cases of plagiarism were found. 

The irregularities have drawn criticism from Harvard professors. Richard Parker, who has taught at Harvard Law School for almost 50 years, told the Boston Globe that the half-hearted investigation "exudes contempt for our students and faculty."

"There are few things more repellent than a top official getting and taking a pass for something they punish underlings for doing," Parker said. 

The double standard has raised concerns that Harvard, which sanctions dozens of students for plagiarism each year, could be vulnerable to a lawsuit if it continues holding students to a higher standard than its own president.

"If she gets away with something that students can’t then get away with," CNN’s Jake Tapper said Wednesday, "that could be messy, legally, for the school."

Published under: claudine gay , Harvard