December 27, 2023

Claudine Gay

Claudine Gay

Source: Wikimedia Commons

That’s a fitting title for a piece about Harvard’s plagiarizer-in-chief. Full disclosure: The title is, er, borrowed from the title of Kenneth O’Donnell’s 1973 book about President John F. Kennedy.

Claudine Gay, Harvard’s “new” president, is a disaster. She has given blacks a bad name. And the Harvard Corporation, by not dismissing her as soon as her villainy became apparent, has compounded the error.

Obviously there are blacks who are competent to be president of Harvard. But by holding on to Gay, the corporation has made it look as if she is the only one. They have also made it perfectly clear that Gay was selected solely because she was black. What a disservice to blacks!

“What seems most likely to do her in, finally, is her plagiarism, not her extraordinary answers to questions about anti-Semitic students at Harvard.”

A decade or two ago (maybe three), only a racist would refuse to go to a black doctor with a high-quality medical degree. Now a patient would be justified in having doubts. Even (especially?) if the black doctor had graduated from Harvard Medical School, how could the patient be sure she was really qualified—and not just an affirmative-action admittee and graduate?

Gay was chosen as Harvard president from, apparently, about 600 candidates, despite having only published eleven articles between 1998 and 2017, as well as co-editing one book. In one year (1987), former Harvard president Larry Summers published more articles than Gay has published in her entire career.

As this column reported last June, Gay worked to end the career of a black Harvard professor, Roland Fryer, probably because he reached conclusions she disagreed with.

In 2016, Fryer wrote an essay titled “An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force,” in which he found that “on the most extreme use of force—officer-involved shootings—we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account.” Ooo! You can’t say that at Harvard.

A committee of Harvard’s highest-ranking administrators decided that Fryer should face two years of full suspension without pay, closure of his research lab, and an end to all his research projects.

Gay was on the committee, and according to a documentary maker who covered the incident, she actually asked the president to go even further, revoking Fryer’s tenure entirely. (The president refused.)

It looks as if Gay simply was unwilling to accept the conclusion that race was not a driving factor in police shootings.

In 2019, Harvard’s student newspaper published a piece on a different Harvard law professor, Ronald Sullivan, lampooning his willingness to represent Harvey Weinstein, the gross Hollywood mogul, in court. Under the Constitution, criminals are entitled to legal defense, but for Claudine Gay, defending due process is an “insufficient” response to students’ getting angry. Gay actually went out of her way to amplify the backlash against Sullivan, commissioning a survey to evaluate “how students felt” studying under a professor who would dare take on a client who appeared so guilty.

Why did Gay go after Sullivan? We don’t know, but we do know that Sullivan called Gay’s investigation into Roland Fryer “deeply flawed and deeply unfair” with “no semblance of due process or the presumption of innocence.”

All of that is now mostly forgotten, and what seems most likely to do her in, finally, is her plagiarism, not her extraordinary answers to questions about anti-Semitic students at Harvard.

According to the Free Beacon, in four papers between 1993 and 2017, Gay “paraphrased or quoted nearly 20 authors, including two of her colleagues in Harvard University’s department of government, without proper attribution.”

In ten cases, she borrowed entire sentences or paragraphs, changing only a few words.

An anonymous tenured Harvard professor is quoted as saying: “This looks really bad for her, and speaks to the fact that at worst she is a plagiarist, and at best, her worse-than-mediocre record as a scholar is highly derivative.”

And, of course, there is her congressional testimony that focused the spotlight on her (and two other college presidents): She equivocated when asked if advocating genocide against Jews violated Harvard’s code of conduct. Well, you know, maybe, but come on, it depends on, you know…etc., etc.

The mind reels…and asks, what is the Harvard corporation thinking? And to what lengths will they go to protect Harvard’s first black president? We don’t know. Yet. We will find out.

Especially since new charges of plagiarism have—drip, drip—just surfaced. Who will now bet—drip, drip—that there won’t be more?

If Gay had any decency, or concern for anyone other than herself—say a concern for Harvard—she would resign. Apparently, she hasn’t got that decency, and, one report says, she is even considering suing the Harvard corporation if they fire her!

How simply frightful. How humiliating.

How delightful!

In what might seem like a slight diversion, we should mention the extraordinary statement of Harvard professor Charles Fried (a solicitor general in the Reagan administration). He is quoted in The New York Times as saying (more or less), “It’s part of this extreme right-wing attack on elite institutions. The obvious point is to make it look as if there is this ‘woke’ double standard at elite institutions. If it came from some other quarter, I might be granting it some credence. But not from these people.”

So, professor, the facts don’t matter; all that matters is who presents them?

Harvard is worse off than we thought.

William F. Buckley Jr. said decades ago that he would rather be governed by the first two hundred names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard college.

Plus ça change

But it’s a good bet that one chose will not be la même: Claudine Gay will be gone by spring, to spend more time with her family, or perhaps to family more time with her spend, or maybe to time more to with her with, or perhaps just to with more with to her to.

Then it will be bye, bye, Claudine. We hardly knew ye.

(Full disclosure: “How simply frightful. How humiliating. How delightful!” is borrowed from the script of My Fair Lady.)

Daniel Oliver, H’61, is Chairman of the Board of the Education and Research Institute and a Director of Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was Executive Editor and subsequently Chairman of the Board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review.

Email Daniel Oliver at


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