Lawyers for Harvard claimed the baselessness of plagiarism allegations against the university's president, Claudine Gay, even before they investigated whether her work was plagiarized even while some Harvard academics expressed strong disapproval, deeming Gay's actions objectionable, according to a report.
In a strongly-worded legal letter sent to The New York Post in late October, the college refuted allegations of plagiarism against her, stating that they were "demonstrably false." The letter also claimed that all of her works were properly cited and credited. Days later, Gay herself requested an investigation, prompting Harvard to deviate from its own rules and seek external experts to assess her work, the outlet reported on Friday.
Cleared Without Investigation
The university cited the necessity to prevent a conflict of interest as the reason for this unconventional move. Subsequently, the external experts conducted a review and concluded that Gay did indeed need to make multiple corrections to her academic record.
Tom Clare, a founder of the Virginia-based law firm Clare Locke, known for specializing in defending clients against high-profile reputational attacks in various media, responded in late October to inquiries regarding Gay's work.
Gay assumed the role of Harvard's president on July 1, facing heightened scrutiny since the October 7 terror attack in Israel. She has also faced criticism for not promptly condemning students who justified Hamas' actions.
On October 27, Clare responded to the paper, categorically dismissing the plagiarism claims as 'demonstrably false.'
Clare told The New York Post that Harvard intended to pursue legal action for substantial damages.
The paper told Harvard it had substantial evidence of plagiarism in three distinct works, identifying 27 potential instances across two peer-reviewed journals and an academic magazine.
The questionable content spanned from 1993, during Gay's graduate studies, to 2017, when she served as the dean of the faculty of social sciences.
"The excerpts provided do not support a finding of plagiarism - and the conclusion she proffers rests on a fatally flawed understanding of what 'plagiarism' is and is not in scholarly work performed in academic journals and settings," Clare wrote.
Clare did not reference the ongoing investigation initiated by Harvard. It wasn't until December 12 that the university publicly disclosed the inquiry's existence and announced that Gay had been cleared, with two amendments to her published work.
The investigation was officially launched on November 2, indicating that Clare had claimed Gay's innocence even before the inquiry had commenced.
In his letter, Tom Clare also referenced the responses of two people whom Gay was accused of plagiarizing, claiming that they had dismissed the allegations nonchalantly.
Attempt to Cover Up
This week, Gay found herself compelled to rectify her own dissertation following fresh allegations of using others' academic work without proper attribution. An official complaint from an academic at another university has been filed, citing 40 distinct incidents of plagiarism across her 11 published works and her dissertation.
Complicating matters further, Gay is now a focal point in a comprehensive Congressional investigation into her academic record.
Republican lawmakers have expressed a readiness to subpoena Harvard, challenging the authenticity of the university's investigation, which they deem as potentially misleading.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY), a Harvard alumna, told the outlet: "Harvard University's pathetic record of stifling free speech has expanded beyond campus, threatening the New York Post following their investigation and coverage of Claudine Gay's history of serial plagiarism.
"This attempt at bullying and subsequent censorship is entirely unacceptable; the Congressional investigation will use every tool at our disposal including subpoena power to expose the rot of antisemitism plaguing higher education and the hypocrisy of the poisoned ivy towers of Harvard. This is a reckoning."
The revelation by The Post regarding Harvard clearing Gay without conducting an investigation and subsequently attempting to conceal the probe has brought attention to the actions of Penny Pritzker, the head of Harvard's governing body and a billionaire heiress from the Hyatt family.
Pritzker, who served as the commerce secretary under President Barrack Obama, will now face scrutiny for her handling of the crisis. As the controversy unfolds, Pritzker's role and decision-making will be closely examined.
Simultaneously, the plagiarism controversy is gaining traction in left-leaning media outlets, including CNN and the New York Times.
John McWhorter, an opinion writer for the New York Times, called for Harvard to either terminate Gay over the "sheer amount of plagiarism" or for Gay to resign. The intensified scrutiny and media attention indicate a growing concern over the handling of the situation and its potential implications for the university's leadership.