The Tennessee Star obtained the letter written by an attorney representing Dr. Carol M. Swain, sent on Wednesday to the Harvard Corporation, including Interim President Alan Garber and Senior Fellow Penny Pritzker, demanding answers about what Swain claims is plagiarism of her work by outgoing President Claudine Gay.
The letter revealed Swain requires answers about what Harvard considers “duplicative language,” which is what the university has acknowledged Gay committed in several of her academic works.
Writer and activist Christopher Rufo in December raised allegations that the former Harvard president plagiarized material from Swain’s work for her 1997 Ph.D. thesis. Swain is a former political science professor at Vanderbilt and a graduate of both the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Yale University.
Swain expects Harvard explain the difference between “duplicative language” and “verbatim copying” without attribution, whether the institution requires quotation marks to be used for “the identical replication of another author’s language,” and when it is appropriate to retroactively edit an academic text to include quotation marks around another author’s language.
In the letter, the lawyers wrote that Swain also demands Harvard declare whether Gay’s dissertation, which Swain alleges included material plagiarized from her book Black Faces, Black Interests, meets the Harvard University Guidelines for PhD Dissertation from 1997.
“How many instances of duplicative language in a scholarly work would constitute plagiarism?” The attorneys queried, “Would five instances of duplicative language constitute plagiarism? Would 50?”
Swain also asked through her attorney for Harvard to clarify whether “the discovery of plagiarism in a dissertation after a Harvard degree has been awarded” would “impact the status or validity of the degree conferred?”
Swain’s questions have been largely ignored by the mainstream media, which doesn’t seem much interested in intellectual theft from a black woman.