No matter the reason, it’s time for Harvard’s president to be fired
December 25, 2023
Whether Harvard President Claudine Gay committed plagiarism is an interesting but small issue. It might even be why she goes if she does, but it’s still not the core issue. It’s a detail of procedure that she’s being accused of – rather than being pilloried for what she’s actually done wrong, which is to allow antisemitism to fester on, even take over, the Harvard campus.
The New York Times is following the story now: “Harvard Finds More Instances of ‘Duplicative Language’ in President’s Work.” The instances seem pretty small from outside academia. There are a few sentences here and there and some wording elsewhere. This is the sort of thing that in journalism would be described as “not paying attention” and quickly forgiven. In academia, this is a little different – lifting someone else’s ideas without acknowledgment runs against the core purpose of scholarship as a communal endeavor.
We know that this is a serious threat to Gay because progressive journalist types are already employing the dismissive tactic. “Oh, so what, it’s not important” and all that, exactly the sort of phrasing used about something important that everyone wishes would go away.
Our point here is something different. We wouldn’t be surprised if the claims are valid – partly because some have already been admitted. But the real-world relevance is minimal, given that the real-world relevance of the research itself – indeed the entire research career – is minimal. This isn’t about nuclear fusion or curing cancer, this is angels dancing on pinheads about nothing very much.
Gay – especially in her job as president, of course – should be judged on her ability as an academic bureaucrat and manager. For that’s what she is; therefore, those are the standards to apply.
As we’ve noted before, Gay does not pass these standards of being a good, not even a decent enough, manager of academia. Therefore, she should step down from her position, and if she won’t, then be forced to.
For allowing that gross distortion of equal rights that is antisemitism to thrive on the Harvard campus, Gay should go. For no other reason, or at least that single one is sufficient and necessary.