Updated Dec 21, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Harvard president to update dissertation as House probes plagiarism claims

Harvard University President Claudine Gay testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

Harvard University President Claudine Gay testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

A Republican-led U.S. House committee is expanding its investigation into Harvard to include allegations of plagiarism against the university's president, Claudine Gay.

Why it matters: Harvard last week cleared Gay of "research misconduct" after plagiarism allegations emerged, but Education and Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) announced Wednesday that the panel had begun a review of Harvard's handling of the allegations that she said were "credible."

The latest: Gay will submit updates to her 1997 dissertation, which will add quotations and citations, a university spokesperson said in a statement provided to Axios on Thursday.

  • Gay's inadequate citations in published works, investigated separately, "did not constitute research misconduct," the statement said.

State of play: The House panel launched an investigation into Harvard and other elite colleges after Gay and other college presidents gave congressional testimony defending their responses to a spike in incidents of antisemitism on their campuses since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

Driving the news: Foxx cited the school's honor code in a letter to Penny Pritzker, head of Harvard's governing board, which requested documents and communications concerning allegations of plagiarism by Gay, a list of disciplinary actions taken against faculty or students on such violations.

  • "The Harvard College Honor Code, which is 'in effect for the academic community of Harvard College beginning in Fall 2015, provides: Members of the Harvard College community commit themselves to producing academic work of integrity," Foxx wrote.
  • "Does Harvard hold its faculty and academic leadership to the same standards?"

Of note: Foxx emphasized in the letter Harvard's use of federal funding that she noted was "conditioned upon the school's adherence to the standards" of its accreditor, the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

  • "The NECHE requires an accredited institution to show that it 'works to prevent cheating and plagiarism as well as to deal forthrightly with any instances in which they occur,'" Foxx wrote.
  • "Our concern is that standards are not being applied consistently, resulting in different rules for different members of the academic community," she added.
  • "If a university is willing to look the other way and not hold faculty accountable for engaging in academically dishonest behavior, it cheapens its mission and the value of its education."

Read Rep. Virginia Foxx's letter in full, via DocumentCloud:

Go deeper: Harvard president apologizes over answers in antisemitism hearing

Editor's note: This story has been updated with details about updates to Gay's work and a statement from a Harvard spokesperson.

Axios' April Rubin contributed reporting.

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