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Harvard granted extension to respond to House on plagiarism scandal

By Matt Egan, CNN

New York (CNN) — Harvard was due to respond by Friday to a demand from lawmakers for wide-ranging documents linked to the plagiarism controversy swirling around embattled President Claudine Gay. But it has been given more time to turn over its information.

The university’s expected response to the House Education and Workforce Committee could provide new details on the allegations and on how Harvard officials have responded.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, the Republican chair of the committee, wrote a letter on December 20 to Penny Pritzker, the senior fellow of the powerful Harvard Corporation, the university’s top governing board, demanding information on Harvard’s response to “credible allegations of plagiarism” by Gay over a 24-year period.

Foxx’s letter requested a “written response” by December 29 to produce a series of documents such as “all documents and communications concerning the initial allegations of plagiarism and the ‘independent review’” of Gay’s scholarship, including “all meeting minutes, transcripts, notes, coordinating communications, memoranda or other materials.”

But a committee spokesperson said Harvard would be given more time to respond.

“Given the holidays and office closures, we are working with Harvard on a prompt production of documents that takes that into account,” the spokesperson said.

Harvard has also been asked to provide documents related to the university’s “public response to media inquiries” about the plagiarism allegations as well as “any and all communications” between Harvard and its regional accreditor regarding its performance on academic honesty.

Some of Harvard’s critics have argued there is a double standard on plagiarism, where students are held to one set of rules and the university’s president to another.

Foxx asked Harvard to provide a list of “any disciplinary actions” since January 2019 taken against Harvard faculty or students for research misconduct and other academic integrity violations, including inadequate citation.

Last week, Harvard announced Gay plans to submit corrections to her 1997 PhD dissertation to correct instances of “inadequate citation.” Those corrections would be on top of ones Gay issued earlier this month to a pair of scholarly articles she wrote in the 2000s.

Harvard has described Gay’s corrections as “regrettable,” but officials found that the matter does not meet the threshold of research misconduct, something that would be a punishable offense.

Experts CNN interviewed stressed that plagiarism can be very complex and they were divided on what the punishment for Gay should be – or if there even should be one. None of those experts argued Gay should be outright fired and they noted that it’s rare for academics to be fired or students to be expelled for plagiarism.

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