by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
If the authors from whom you plagiarize say it’s OK, well, then, it’s OK!
That was the upshot of the Harvard Corporation’s message to “members of the Harvard Community” on Tuesday announcing its “full support” for university president and serial plagiarist Claudine Gay. Its note obliquely referred to “a few instances of inadequate citation” and to Gay’s “proactive” request to have them corrected.
In other words: Reporters have been asking questions about Gay’s plagiarism for months, and she and her defenders on the Harvard Corporation—which includes the former president of Princeton University, Shirley Tilghman, and the former president of Amherst College, Biddy Martin—helped her batten down the hatches. Late in the day, five former Harvard presidents joined the chorus, too.
The Harvard Crimson, which limply and unenthusiastically substantiated reports of Gay’s decades-long record of plagiarism, talked to scholars like Lawrence Bobo—one of the many authors from whom Gay cribbed, er, inadequately cited—who told the paper he was “unconcerned” that Gay quoted him and his colleague, Gary King, without proper attribution.
Sure, Gay violated the standards to which Harvard holds its own students. Sure, she did the same and worse to dozens of other scholars. But Harvard’s 30th president isn’t a plagiarist. And besides, isn’t imitation the highest form of flattery? Take notes, Harvard students. And Princeton students. And Amherst students.
What the Crimson didn’t mention is that Bobo, the dean of social sciences at Harvard, was appointed to his role five years earlier by Gay, when she was dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. She’s not just his boss, she’s his patron. Gay’s dissertation adviser, Gary King, and her former classmate, Stephen Voss, also defended the Ivy League apparatchik who absconded with their work.