Harvard President’s ‘Flimsy’ Record And Plagiarism Allegations Set Her Apart From Her Prodigious Predecessors

(Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

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Brandon Poulter Contributor
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Embattled Harvard President Claudine Gay’s academic credentials are much thinner than her recent predecessors, according to experts and a Daily Caller News Foundation review of their scholarship.

Recent Harvard presidents have produced more academic papers and have achieved greater levels of academic distinction, such as former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers and historian Drew Gilpin Faust, which experts say makes her appointment to the top job unusual. Multiple accusations of plagiarism arose following Gay’s testimony at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing which brought into question her scholarly career consisting of 11 peer-reviewed papers and one book. (RELATED: Plane Flies Over Harvard Campus Reading ‘Harvard Hates Jews’)

“Claudine Gay’s research record is flimsy for even a basic faculty appointment at an elite university. That she was appointed president reveals that the university clearly did not prioritize scholarly excellence. Sadly, that’s becoming more common for university administrators, and it shows,” John Sailer, senior fellow at the National Association of Scholars (NAS), told the DCNF.

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 05: Dr. Claudine Gay, President of Harvard University, testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on December 05, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Gay worked as a political science professor at Stanford from 2000 to 2006 and moved to Harvard in 2006 to serve as a professor of government. Gay was appointed professor of African and African American Studies in 2007, according to Harvard. Gay served as a dean of social science from 2015 to 2018, and then served as the Edgerley Family Dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences for five years.

Gay wrote a single book with several other writers called “Outsiders No More?: Models of Immigrant Political Incorporation,” which “considers pathways by which immigrants may be incorporated into the political processes of western democracies,” according to Harvard. Her 11 papers consist of works discussing racial politics, including one regarding how race and gender impact the politics of black women, and another that proposes that “the quality and socioeconomic composition of neighborhoods” affects how black people see race in their lives.

“She was appointed president after her previous academic appointments each of which was grounded in racial preference. We know this not because Harvard says so but because no non-minority candidate who had credentials as threadbare as Gay’s would have even made it to the starting gate,” Peter Wood, president of NAS, wrote Thursday.

“Since receiving her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1998, she has published no single-author books and as of 2017, eleven articles. She co-edited a book published in 2013. In academic circles generally, this record falls short of mediocrity. For a Harvard professor it is derisory. For the president of Harvard, it is farcical,” Wood continued.

Other Harvard presidents have much more padded academic careers than Gay’s, including English literature scholar Neil Rudenstine, economist Lawrence S. Bacow and lawyer Derek C. Bok.

Summers, who served as the president of Harvard from 2001-2006, has written hundreds of papers in his academic career that have been cited over 100,000 times, according to Google Scholar.

Faust served as president of Harvard from 2007 to 2018, and served as the founding dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study from 2001 to 2007, according to Harvard. She won the John W. Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity in 2018 and is the author of seven books, according to her website.

Rudenstine spent two decades as an administrator and professor at Princeton University before becoming president of Harvard, and has authored at least five books in his lifetime.

Bacow founded the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Real Estate in 1984, and worked in the Obama administration’s “White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.” Bacow wrote four books and authored dozens of scholarly articles before serving as the president of Harvard from 2018-2023.

Bok served as the dean of Harvard Law School from 1968-1971 and established the Harvard Office for the Arts in 1975, according to Harvard. Bok authored eight books, including six on higher education and two books on the U.S. government, before serving as the president of Harvard from 1971-1991, and then again from 2006-2007.

During Gay’s academic career, she appears to have copied entire paragraphs and quoted nearly 20 authors without proper citations, according to The Washington Free Beacon. The student newspaper also reviewed Gay’s academic papers and found that some of her papers possibly violated Harvard’s plagiarism policies. Gay issued corrections to two articles Friday, involving “quotation marks and citations” to articles she is accused of plagiarizing.

“It’s pretty typical to have a president who used to be a professor of some distinction, who then moved to be an administrator or head of a department or college within a university, who is then tapped to be president. Gay’s bio goes out of the way to mention typical ‘woke’ interests,” Jonathan Butcher, an education fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy, told the DCNF.

“Having authored books is typically a part of a scholar’s development, once they have published papers on a certain topic, they compile their research and can find a publisher. The more published papers an academic has, the more that it helps to distinguish them as a leading scholar in a field,” Butcher told the DCNF.

Gay came under scrutiny for her response to rising antisemitism on Harvard’s campus due to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel, and more scrutiny came after her testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce when she refused to say if calls for genocide against Jews violated the university’s code of conduct.

Following the House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing on Dec. 5 with Gay, University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) President Liz Magill and Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth, over 70 members of Congress called on the presidents to resign. The Committee opened an investigation into all three schools, and Magill resigned as UPenn president alongside UPenn chair of the board of trustees Scott Bok.

“It is typical for a university president of an elite research university to have a distinguished academic record (such as Larry Summers at Harvard and Amy Gutmann at Penn) and to come from within academia. President Gay’s oeuvre does not measure up at all. Some faculty members who cannot cut it academically choose an administrative track and become career administrators. That may be what happened here,” Adam Kissel, visiting fellow on Higher Education Reform at the Heritage Foundation, told the DCNF.

Gay and Harvard did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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