Weekend Jolt: The Ivory Tower Is Crumbling

Jack Crowe here, filling in this week for Judson Berger.

Harvard administrators are ...

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WITH JUDSON BERGER December 23 2023
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WITH JUDSON BERGER December 23 2023

The Ivory Tower Is Crumbling

Jack Crowe here, filling in this week for Judson Berger.

Harvard administrators are sticklers for the rules — sometimes: Dozens of students were forced to withdraw from the university for academic-integrity violations during President Claudine Gay's time as dean of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The university seems to be less concerned with the conduct of Gay herself, who has since ascended to the presidency, the pinnacle of an academic career that appears to have consisted mainly of plagiarizing her fellow scholars, including her colleagues at Harvard.

After initially downplaying Gay’s questionable record — on the grounds that she merely failed to include proper citations and quotations on just four occasions — Harvard retreated slightly in a Wednesday night statement, acknowledging that Gay will also be asking for three corrections in her doctoral dissertation.

The slow climbdown has not impressed the academics whose work Gay apparently plagiarized, as NR’s Ryan Mills and Zach Kessel reported Thursday:

It does not appear that any of the corrections will address portions of Gay's doctoral dissertation drawing heavily from the work of Vanderbilt University professor Carol Swain, in some cases reproducing her writing word for word without citation.

Swain — who has been outspoken about her feelings on the plagiarism scandal — told National Review that she is concerned by Harvard's response to the revelations of its president's academic-integrity issues. She feels that the university should have reached out to her and the other scholars both as a professional courtesy, to inform them their work may have been plagiarized, and as part of their fact-finding effort to determine the extent of Gay’s transgressions, since they’re the foremost experts on their own work.

"I have a problem with the way Harvard has reacted to the entire situation, because it seems like — with the assistance of some of their professors and other elites — they're trying to redefine what is plagiarism," Swain said, "and they're making the argument that there are different levels and, by extension, that some of it is acceptable. That is a problem for higher education in America."

A number of experts and academics contacted by National Review said that the examples of potential plagiarism that have been flagged are serious, and the large number of instances suggests a pattern.

Lee Jussim, a social psychologist and distinguished professor at Rutgers University, said he's "never seen anything like" the plagiarism scandal involving Gay.

"I can tell you, I expelled a student from my lab when I first got to Rutgers who I caught doing something not all that different — probably less — than what she has done," he said.

Harvard’s board claims to have conducted a thorough, independent investigation after the initial plagiarism allegations were first brought to its attention, but that effort apparently did not include a review of Gay’s doctoral thesis. The board didn’t bother with that until later, after further press inquiries.

More from Zach and Ryan:

Harvard's delay in identifying errors in Gay's doctoral thesis "means that they, almost certainly, did not do a thorough review of her past work," according to Jonathan Bailey, a plagiarism expert and consultant who publishes the website Plagiarism Today.

"It's frustrating that Harvard (or even Gay herself) didn't thoroughly investigate her prior works and, seemingly, just checked and responded to the initial allegations. They had an opportunity to get ahead of this and missed it," Bailey said.

As donors continue to pull their money and the public pressure mounts thanks to negative coverage in mainstream outlets like the New York Times and CNN, Harvard may be forced to ditch Gay.

But the damage is done.

Plagiarism aside, the president of Harvard has been revealed as an intellectual fraud. She has published eleven papers in her entire career and the cornerstone of her academic record, her doctoral dissertation, contains nothing approaching an original thought — just ask Swain, whose work she relied on and who is now calling for her to be fired.

A brief comparison: Larry Summers had published 150 scholarly papers and multiple books by the time he was made president of Harvard in 2001. He was also coming off a stint as Treasury secretary.

How far we have fallen.

It’s almost as if Claudine Gay wasn’t hired for her scholarship.

Lee Jussim, the Rutgers professor, told Ryan and Zach that she was likely hired for an altogether different purpose:

Ultimately, [Jussim] said, he suspects Gay will be protected. Most high-level university administrators are "not really there for their scholarship," he said, and that likely includes Gay.

If advancing ideology is Gay's primary mission as Harvard president, he said, "who cares about any of this?"

The Harvard board’s decision to stand by Gay — even to praise her as the right leader for the current moment — makes a lot more sense once you accept Jussim’s framing.

She’s doing the job she was hired to do.



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Audrey Fahlberg: Behind Closed Doors, Congressional Democrats Echo Voters' Concerns about Biden's Age

Zach Kessel: Colorado Supreme Court Rules Trump Ineligible for 2024 Ballot

Zach Kessel: Exclusive: Crenshaw to Introduce Bill Stripping Federal Funding from Universities That Require DEI Statements

Charles C. W. Cooke: The Problem with the Colorado Supreme Court's Decision Is That It's Wrong

Charles C. W. Cooke: The GOP Is Blowing Its Moment

Andrew C. McCarthy: As Dems Panic over 2024, Washington Post Dredges Up Biden Brothers' Ties to Corrupt Mississippi Lawyer and Associates

Noah Rothman: Nikki Haley's Pathway to a Competitive Race with Trump Is Now Visible

Noah Rothman: The U.S. Must Restore Deterrence in the Red Sea

Ryan Mills: 'Unprecedented' Ballot-Initiative Drive Pushes 'Common Sense' Conservative Reforms on West Coast

Caroline Downey: Michigan Parents Sue School District for Allegedly Hiding Autistic Daughter's Gender Transition

Caroline Downey: Tennessee Sues BlackRock for Misleading Customers on ESG

Brittany Bernstein: Americore Gave James Biden $600k Loan on Promise He'd Deliver Funding from Middle East, Trustee Says

Rich Lowry: The Houthis Are Humiliating Us

Ari Blaff: Gaza Hospital Boss Admits He's a Hamas Commander, Used Medical Facility as Terror Base

Ari Blaff: Exclusive: Trump Surges in National Poll as Majority of Voters Doubt Biden Will Complete Second Term If Reelected

David Zimmermann: New York Governor Kathy Hochul Signs Bill Forming Reparations Commission

David Zimmermann: Greg Abbott Signs Bill Making It a State Crime to Enter Texas Illegally

Dan McLaughlin: There Is No Nonpolitical Case for Trying Trump before Election Day

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The Vatican's Deliberate Confusion on Same-Sex Couples

Henry Olsen: Democrats Really Are Losing Ground with Minorities


Brad Polumbo highlights a consequential new study suggesting that income inequality has barely risen since the 1960s, despite what we’ve been told by progressives: Was the Panic over 'Income Inequality' All Based on a Mistake?

Andrew Stuttaford takes a look at the economic consequences of effectively ceding the Red Sea to the Houthis: Supply Chains: Red Sea Blues


Armond White sizes up a new film that promises to mock contemporary pop culture’s race obsession: American Fiction Flattens a Cultural Crisis

Jack Butler celebrates a major move milestone: 20 Years of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings


Ramesh Ponnuru dismantles ProPublica‘s latest hit on the Supreme Court’s conservative justices:

Let's start with the organization's supposed blockbuster headline about Justice Thomas. "A "Delicate Matter": Clarence Thomas' Private Complaints About Money Sparked Fears He Would Resign." The trusting reader might well expect that the story will include a report, even a second-hand or anonymously sourced one, that Thomas told someone he might resign because of money trouble. Someone must surely have used the phrase "delicate matter" in reference to Thomas's financial straits and threatened resignation.

Wrong on both counts. The four reporters on the story unearth not a solitary soul who claimed, even off the record, that Thomas had ever said he would resign without additional income. The June 2000 memo in which "delicate matter" appears did not claim that Thomas was threatening to resign, although it did say that Justices Thomas and Scalia were "presumably" the most likely to leave for financial reasons. The main point of the memo is to figure out the best strategy for raising the pay of the justices: whether, for example, to push for a bill that raised their pay alone or raised it alongside salary increases for members of Congress and lower federal judges. That's the "delicate matter," not the specific question of how to address Thomas's finances, which never even come up in the memo except by implication.

Andrew McCarthy questions the timing of an extensive Washington Post report on James Biden’s decades-old influence-peddling scheme:

Sunday’s eye-popping 4,000-word Washington Post report on Biden corruption ties is, to my mind, more indication that a serious move is under way within the top ranks of the Democratic Party establishment to nudge President Joe Biden into bowing out of the 2024 presidential race.

In the past month, we've seen a second Hunter Biden indictment, one that extensively details the tax evasion and lavish spending by the president's son, a story that — however much the prosecutor labored to keep the president's name out of it — cannot obscure that Hunter and other Bidens made millions by trading on the now-president's political influence. We've further seen remarks by the Obama-whisperer, David Axelrod, to the effect that President Biden should consider bowing out of his reelection bid — and then more recently adding that the president's record-low approval rating is "very, very dark" news for his campaign. And just this weekend, we found an unidentified source "familiar with [former President Barack Obama's] thinking" telling the Wall Street Journal that Obama knows the presidential race is going to be "close," "feels the Democrats very well could lose," and worries that "the alternative" — Donald Trump — "is pretty dangerous for democracy."

This, mind you, was contemporaneous with Hunter Biden's defying a subpoena for deposition testimony issued by two House committees, for which the House has signaled it will hold him in contempt, and with a full House vote to formally approve an impeachment investigation of the president.

The timing of the Post's report is thus intriguing. For the president, it will sting for several reasons. First, it's the Post, a pillar of the Democratic administration's Praetorian Guard — this is not just more brickbats hurled by House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R., Ky.) and the other Republicans investigating Biden-family influence-peddling. Second, the subject matter of the report goes back to the start of Joe Biden's Senate career in the early Seventies (yes, the family business goes back decades), meaning the Post has intentionally dredged up unseemly details about Biden's past that have been vaguely known for decades but that Biden must have figured were long forgotten. Third, the length of the report shows that the Post had to have spent weeks reporting its story; the paper could have dropped this report at any time, but it chose to do so now, when the president and his campaign are reeling.

Audrey Fahlberg reports that Democrats are growing increasingly concerned about Biden’s condition after seeing him struggle at White House holiday parties:

Less than a year out from Election Day, Democrats in Washington are still coming to terms with the 2024 cards they have been dealt: an extremely unpopular, octogenarian incumbent who is now losing many head-to-head swing-state polling matchups against indicted former president Donald Trump.

Intra-party concerns about the president's advanced age are not new. But grumblings have grown a bit louder in recent days as congressional Democrats who don't regularly interact with the 81-year-old president have observed him up close during White House holiday celebrations.

Behind closed doors and in hushed tones, a small cohort of elected Democrats who are feeling the heat of recent polls have started privately questioning whether Biden can "make it" to Election Day.

"My concern is heightened," one House Democrat tells National Review after seeing him interact with other lawmakers at a White House holiday party, adding the president's habit of mumbling in public settings and reliance on a teleprompter have done little to dispel concerns from voters that he is fit to serve another term: "Half the time I don't know what he's saying."

NR's editorial, on America’s duty to protect the Red Sea:

The Biden administration's solipsism has allowed the crisis in the Red Sea to spiral out of control. The Pentagon has all the assets in place to execute a retaliatory response against Houthi targets, but a slap on the wrist will not revive the status quo ante. Like Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria, the Houthis are attacking Western interests at Iran's behest. The Middle East is alive with military activity because Tehran desires it. Iran will continue to test its freedom of action until its campaign of provocations draws an unacceptably high cost. The time in which a tailored response to Iranian aggression might restore deterrence has passed. Instead, it is now time for a meaningful strike on Iranian and Houthi assets in the region that is closer in scale to the 2020 killing of their terrorist leader Qasem Soleimani than to the recent bombing of empty warehouses.

The test the Iranians and their proxy forces are presenting to the Biden administration cannot be understated. What is American hegemony if not global-maritime-navigation rights guaranteed by U.S. naval power? What cues will America's adversaries take if an Iranian satrap is allowed to establish an inviolable sphere of influence off Yemen's coasts? How will the Russians and the Chinese respond to the perverse incentives the Biden administration is encouraging?

The British understood that their rule of the waves was the key to preserving the global order. Joe Biden's predecessors understood that, too. But on his watch, this president is sacrificing that vital U.S. strategic interest. In the process, he is earning for himself an ignominious place in the history books.



Francesca Block, at the Free Press: How U.S. Public Schools Teach Antisemitism

Sophie Gilbert, at the Atlantic: The Subversive Worldview of Slow Horses

Sam Schechner and company, at the Wall Street Journal: How TikTok Brings War Home to Your Child


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