Statement | Accreditation

ACTA Submits Complaint to NECHE Calling for Investigation of Harvard Corporation’s Mishandling of Plagiarism Allegations by Harvard President Claudine Gay

January 12, 2024 by ACTA Download PDF

The criticisms and charges surrounding Harvard University’s former president Claudine Gay will not disappear with her resignation. The issues involved in her departure after six months as president go to the very heart of Harvard’s governance, operations, and values. On January 11, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) submitted a detailed complaint to the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), requesting that the commission open a formal inquiry into Harvard’s apparent violation of its own established procedures in the investigation of the alleged plagiarism committed by Dr. Gay. NECHE is the accrediting body for Harvard University. 

As is now well known, on October 24, 2023, the New York Post submitted allegations to Harvard of plagiarism committed by Dr. Gay. The Harvard Corporation, the governing body of the institution, stated that it “promptly initiated an independent review by distinguished political scientists and conducted a review of her published work. On December 9, the Fellows reviewed the results” which they claimed, “revealed a few instances of inadequate citation” (italics added). After additional plagiarism allegations were made by an anonymous source, Dr. Gay resigned on January 2. 

In light of several credible and well-documented press reports, ACTA believes that the Harvard Corporation conducted an irregular and hasty investigation in violation of the university’s established procedures. Therefore, ACTA is asking NECHE to determine whether Harvard has the capacity, policies, procedures, safeguards, and willingness to investigate and adjudicate allegations of academic dishonesty and research misconduct equitably, ethically, and forthrightly. 

ACTA’s complaint reads, “Additional evidence suggesting that Harvard University may be in violation of several provisions of NECHE’s Standards for Accreditation continues to appear. Harvard’s former president, Dr. Claudine Gay, admitted to multiple instances in which her published work and dissertation required corrections to her citations; instances of this sort would normally be seen as plagiarism according to the Harvard Guide to Using Sources.” 

Dr. Steven McGuire, ACTA’s Research Fellow, said “Academic dishonesty offends against the very nature of the university as an institution devoted to the pursuit of truth. Unfortunately, it appears that Harvard has not followed its own policies or lived up to its motto—veritas, or truth—in reviewing the allegations of plagiarism against Dr. Gay. But it is critical that our elite institutions adhere to rigorous standards in such matters both for the sake of their own integrity and because the rest of higher education will follow their lead. Thus, we are asking NECHE to investigate this issue.”

To read ACTA’s complaint in its entirety, click here.


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