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Exclusive: Carol Swain Weighs in on Charge Harvard President Claudine Gay Plagiarized Her

The groundbreaking political scientist whose work academic activist Christopher Rufo accused Harvard President Claudine Gay of plagiarizing told RedState she is shocked by this scandal coming on the heels of Gay’s disastrous Dec. 5 congressional hearing on antisemitism on college campuses.

“I’m trying to process it because I feel like I don’t have enough information to assess everything fully,” said Carol Swain, whose breakthrough book, “Black Faces, Black Interests: The Representation of African Americans in Congress,” won the LBJ Foundation’s D.B. Hardeman Prize for congressional scholarship and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award from the American Political Science Association. 

Swain said she was getting messages from all over, but she had not examined for herself whether Gay had plagiarized her. “I never read any of Claudine Gay’s work; I just wasn’t interested in her.”

Rufo X-posted that he and Chris Brunet found evidence that Gay lifted from Swain and other scholars.

Beyond lifting her wording, the political scientist said she was more concerned if Gay used her research and analysis without citing Swain’s work. Swain told RedState:

“If she was doing work on minority representation and publishing articles, if she didn’t cite my work at all, but she was clearly using my work, that’s more serious.
“Did she cite my work at all? Because my work won the highest prize political scientists can win, and my work was the one cited in the voting rights cases about majority-minority districts.” 

Harvard University’s plagiarism policy specifically holds the student responsible for citing sources, and the sanctions against violators include expulsion from the institution.

The responsibility for learning the proper forms of citation lies with the individual student. Students are expected to be familiar with the Harvard Guide to Using Sources. Students who are in any doubt about the preparation of academic work should consult their instructor and Resident Dean before the work is prepared or submitted.
Students who, for whatever reason, submit work either not their own or without clear attribution to its sources will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including the requirement to withdraw from the College. Students who have been found responsible for any violation of these standards will not be permitted to submit course evaluation of the course in which the infraction occurred.

“If she didn’t cite my work, then that would be more concerning to me, that she was able to advance through academia doing work very similar to mine without citing me,” Swain said. 

Obviously, Gay was working Swain’s side of the street. 

“I mean, her ideas came from me because she came after me, right?” Swain asked. 

The professor, who retired from teaching in 2017, said academics is a competitive profession where individuals are gauged by the number of times others cite their work, so if Gay and others fail to cite her, they are undermining her professional standing.

“If people like her who are supposed to be hotshot are not citing my work — they’re using it and they’re not citing it, it hurt my reputation. It diminished me; it helped marginalize me because we get our promotions and recognition based on how much our work is cited.
“Over the years, I have always felt that given the seminal nature of my work, there should have been more citations. But, I’ve also noticed that there’ve been people doing work on white nationalism and various topics where I was out there first that did not cite me at all.”

It was only a matter of time before activist investor Bill Ackman joined the fray. Ackman called for Gay’s firing after her congressional testimony, and the Harvard alumnus also accused Gay of being a diversity hire.

Swain and Gay are two African-American scholars from opposite sides of the tracks. While Swain was raised in abject poverty in a broken home, Gay was raised in a prosperous household. Swain earned her GED, but Gay attended Phillips Exeter Academy.

Swain said she was aware of Gay, but they were not friends.

“She was in graduate school when I was tenured at Princeton. I was a professor, and she was supposed to be the new hotshot.
“I was a hotshot, and then I was being displaced by her. I heard about how brilliant she was, but I never met her. I never knew her, and she’s never contacted me. We never had conversations.”

The Bedford, Virginia, native said Gay was not a significant scholar, and her work did not justify her elevation to lead Harvard.

“I haven’t read the articles that she published.
“I can tell you this: when I got my tenure at Princeton, the standard at the Ivy League was you had to have one major book, and you had to have a path-breaking book.
“As far as I can tell, she has no path-breaking books. I only see one, and it’s not really a book. It’s listed as a book, but it doesn’t seem to be a book.”

Gay is the author of “The Effect of Minority Districts and Minority Representation on Political Participation in California,” a 114-page book published in 2001.

Swain said Gay has published articles:

“Most of them are in journals that would not be considered leading journals, so her record does not seem to even support tenure anywhere, not at Princeton or Harvard.”

The scholar, who served on President Donald J. Trump’s 1776 Commission, said rather than go after Gay, she would prefer to go after the academic establishment that pushed Gay ahead of her qualifications and merits.

Swain: Gay was poorly prepped for congressional testimony

Of course, this scandal could not come at a worse time for Gay, given her difficulty responding to whether or not she believed calling for the genocide of Jews violated her school’s code of conduct.

Swain said her take on Gay’s congressional testimony was that she and the other college presidents were trained by people unfamiliar with Capitol Hill’s hearing dynamics.

“I think that they had prepared for that testimony, and they gave their rehearsed responses. That’s my take on it,” she said. 

“It turned out that it didn’t play very well with Congress, but I believe they had talking points that they rehearsed together.”

Late Monday, the Washington Free Beacon published a story detailing numerous additional examples of potential plagiarism by Gay, who told the Boston Globe she stood by her academic work.

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