King to Gay: Universities Dismiss Black Plagiarism

Claudine Gay is the present poster child for plagiarism. Although presidents of Harvard University are never too far from public attention at any time, heightened focus on her came about based on her views on anti-Semitism and free speech. A long-time advocate of “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” she saw nothing contrary to Harvard principles in calling for the death of Jews.

However, her anti-Semitic views were not why she was compelled to resign from her position as Harvard’s president. No, it turned out that she had widely plagiarized several of her eleven refereed journal articles and her Ph.D. dissertation. Despite the initial circling of the wagons of the Harvard professoriate and administration in support of her—several hundred faculty members wrote a letter in her defense—the evidence of her massive plagiarism became so overwhelming it was no longer tenable that she remained in her position.

What now for this “scholar?” Will she now enter the unemployment lines? Not a bit of it. Instead, she takes on the position of a tenured faculty member at Harvard’s Political Science Department at a salary of about $900,000 per year. Plagiarism pays.

This brings up several questions. First, why did Harvard hire her in the first place? Someone with fewer than a dozen publications, none considered earth-shaking even by her most fervent supporters, would be extremely unlikely to be tenured at this august institution. We all know the answer to that one. Second, now that she has been exposed as an academic fraud, why is she still welcome on Harvard’s faculty? We all know the answer to that one, and it is the same answer. Third, given that she plagiarized heavily, not only in her small list of refereed journal publications but also in her Ph.D. dissertation, why does she still retain the honorific “Doctor.” Why has Harvard, which also awarded her Ph.D., not rescinded that degree? Again, we all know the answer.

Speaking of not rescinding her Ph.D. for plagiarism, there is, of course, a comparable elephant in the room: “Dr.” Martin Luther King, Jr., also plagiarized his Ph.D. dissertation. Why has Boston University not annulled his doctorate? The answer is pretty much the same as in the previous case. Is there something wrong with the drinking water in Massachusetts?

Is opposition to plagiarism racist? Of course not. The very idea is nonsensical. However, that is the wokes’ position. How else can we explain that the doctorate of Mr. Martin Luther King Jr. has still not been rescinded, and the fact that Claudine Gay’s Ph.D. is still valid, and she is now a professor in good standing in the political science department of still prestigious Harvard University?

There is a possible justification for this abject failure on Boston University’s part to uphold academic standards that would not apply in the case of Claudine Gay. Mr. King is no longer around to defend himself against these charges. But he was undoubtedly alive when they were first made, and he had no defense against them at all at that time. Simple justice requires that both these “scholars” be stripped of these unearned degrees and that Gay also lose her role as a professor.

The last thing our society needs is for black leaders and scholars to be associated with plagiarism. Yet, since Gay remains a professor at Harvard and since Boston University did not revoke Mr. King’s Ph.D. when it had the chance, this is a distinct possibility.

Not only is Claudine Gay the poster child for plagiarism she is also the poster child for affirmative action. Were she a straight white male with the same rather skimpy record of scholarly accomplishment, it is unlikely that she would have come within a million miles of attaining a job at Harvard, let alone becoming the president of this august institution. Gay owed her position as a faculty member at Harvard not to merit but to her race and gender.

It’s evident, therefore, that the path forward must include a commitment to upholding academic integrity, irrespective of one’s background or position.

Photo by Dick DeMarsicoWikimedia Commons & Maura Healey — Flickr 


3 thoughts on “King to Gay: Universities Dismiss Black Plagiarism

  1. The author’s comments are spot on. The only way we can have a meritocracy is to have standards and those standards must apply equally to everyone. Intolerance of plagiarism, along with stiff penalties for non-compliance, is one standard that should be invariant and rigorously enforced.

    Some people want to get caught up in silly arguments about motives or intentions or hidden agendas or what group did what. This is just background noise. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about anti-semitism or plagiarism. Impose ethical standards and then enforce them.

    1. I fully agree Patti — but we are not going to have any credibility complaining about their Kampus Kangaroo Kourts if we proceed to run roughshod over due process and procedural fairness the same way they do. We are better, and we have to be if we wish to win this — and I want to win it.

      That’s why I wrote what I did about Dr. King — and perhaps I should explain why I feel as I do.

      In Massachusetts, possibly because of our rather unpleasant experience with Witchcraft trials in the early 1690s, the principle is that if you die accused of something — before you have had a chance to fully defend yourself — you are found innocent on the presumption that you could have. There were some very good reasons involving inheritance and estates for that rule in the 1690s, maybe not so much now as the 1789 US Constitution forbids “corruption of blood”, but I still think it’s a good idea.

      That’s why I am willing to give Dr. King a pass — he didn’t intend to get shot and his plagiarism wasn’t discovered while he was alive and as he is now dead, he can’t defend himself now. Let us not forget that the plagiarism was initially discovered by a BLACK scholar who not only was a fan of King but (as a teenager) had attended King’s “I Have a Dream” rally in DC.

      And it’s only because he reported what he found that we know about it — that was the only reason why folks started looking at King’s earlier works and found what appears to be a pattern of — at the very least — incredibly sloppy scholarship. (They were actually hoping that they wouldn’t…) But I don’t have a problem having a greatly relaxed standard for the dead who didn’t get caught while they were still alive.

      It’s the same thing with Wernher von Braun of the Apollo Program and the Saturn V rockets that put men on the moon. If he hadn’t died in 1977, there is a fairly good chance that he would have been brought up on Holocaust charges for the stuff he did with the Nazis during WWII, there is some fairly convincing evidence of his guilt. But he did die in 1977, is dead now, and can’t defend himself — and we really can’t prosecute a corpse.

      The other thing is that the publication standards, and hence citation rules, do vary vastly between disciplines. There is Chicago (or Turabian) that I prefer because it is the most rational. There is MLA. There is APA (American Psychological Association) that I have to use because I am in Education. And there are more — I presume some specific to STEM.

      Let’s say you were in Electrical Engineering or Computer Science — you could cite an IEEE spec by merely writing IEEE and the four-digit number — while I’d have to find who actually wrote the spec and cite it as Jones, 1994 — and everyone in the engineering field would instantly say “who the bleep is “Jones” and how is that relevant here?

      And that goes to how different various fields are and that the underlying primary goal of all citations is to refer the reader to the original scholarship. It’s been said that King should also get a pass because the rules for preachers are different than the rules for other fields and if that’s true on a racially neutral basis, then fine. The King James Bible dates back to 1611 — how many unique things can you draw from it? And what are the standards for a White student?

      I’m reminded of why John Adams defended the British Soldiers accused of murder after the so-called “Boston Massacre.” We are not going to have credibility unless we are careful to extend due process and procedural fairness to people who really don’t deserve it, and we do it not because of who they are but because of who WE are…

  2. Did Gay personally call for the murder of Jews, or did she merely say nothing when others did? I make a distinction between the two, a big distinction because my testimony to Congress would have involved handing out copies of Milton’s Areopagitica and going from there.

    Of course were I the President of Harvard, I would also walk the walk and wouldn’t tolerate any of the stuff that is going on there, one of the many reasons I’d never be hired as President of Harvard. But was Gay merely a hypocrite who let the Hamas Fan Club say things that she’d never tolerate anyone else saying, or did she say them herself?

    I think we need to be careful to only accuse the campus crazies of what they have actually done because (a) we have more than enough there and (b) we lose credibility if we accuse them of things that they haven’t. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Gay also has anti-Semitic views, but did she ever express them? Or did she merely fail to enforce her quite fascist speech codes against those who did?

    “Mr. King is no longer around to defend himself against these charges. But he was undoubtedly alive when they were first made…”

    No — he was murdered in 1968 and had been dead for about 20 years when a King biographer (given access to his papers) stumbled across this in the late 1980s. And then the more people looked, the more they found, but it was initially discovered by accident — long after his death.

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