The Harvard Scandal is Bigger Than Claudine Gay

Claudine Gay (Harrison Krank/Twitter)
December 22, 2023

With new examples of her plagiarism coming to light almost every day now, Harvard president Claudine Gay surely ought to resign in the best interests of the university she has so poorly led.

In one sense, Gay has become a distraction, which is exactly the sort of cliché one might expect a scandal-ridden leader like her to deploy if she calls it quits.

In another, though, L’affaire Gay is not a distraction. It has cast a light on the conduct of her bosses, the school’s board of directors, known as the Harvard Corporation, and shown them to be as high-handed, corrupt, and brittle as she is. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. (That’s Shakespeare. Do they still study him at Harvard?)

The 11 men and women of the Harvard Corporation are titans of business, academia, and law: the American elite. They include Penny Pritzker, the billionaire hotel heiress and former Obama secretary of commerce, and the former presidents of Princeton University, Shirley Tilghman, and Amherst College, Biddy Martin. Ken Chenault, the former CEO and chairman of American Express, Tino Cuéllar, the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Ted Wells, the chairman of the litigation department of Paul Weiss, are also part of the crew.

The group learned about the accusations of plagiarism against Gay on Oct. 24 through an inquiry from the New York Post. They responded by hiring the "leading defamation firm in the United States," which repped noted defamation victims like the NBC News pervert Matt Lauer and Putin crony Oleg Deripaska, to threaten and intimidate the Post. (It worked.)

In a Kafkaesque move, the corporation then circumvented the university’s well-established procedures for investigating academic misconduct and appointed an "independent" panel of scholars to review Gay’s work. They will not disclose the members of that panel, which—surprise!—found "no violation of Harvard’s standards for research misconduct." This wasn’t plagiarism, a capital offense in academia, but "duplicative language without appropriate attribution," which sounds an awful lot like plagiarism to those of us who didn’t go to Harvard.

That "independent review" did not consider all of Gay’s work. Given her thin academic record, it would not have been a heavy lift. When new plagiarism allegations emerged on Dec. 10 and Dec. 19, the corporation waived them off. In a statement to the Chronicle of Higher Education on Wednesday, the corporation indicated that a subcommittee of 4 of its 11 members determined that "no further action is required." So long, secret "independent" review board!

The fish rots from the head. After they inevitably drop the hammer on Gay, the members of the Harvard Corporation should see themselves out too.