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Report: Harvard’s Chief Diversity Officer Plagiarized Other Academics’ Works


Harvard University’s chief diversity officer heavily plagiarized in her academic works, a newly filed complaint alleges.

On Tuesday, the Washington Free Beacon published an anonymous complaint contending that Sherri Ann Charleston, Harvard’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, published papers containing a collective 40 examples of plagiarism. The revelations came weeks after then-Harvard President Claudine Gay resigned after independent reporters unearthed her extensive history of purportedly plagiarizing other academics’ works. According to the Free Beacon, “Charleston served on the staff advisory committee that helped guide the university’s presidential search process that resulted in” Gay’s appointment in 2022.

[RELATED: Don’t Stop With Plagiarist Claudine Gay. Remove Every Useless, Overpaid University Administrator]

Filed on Monday, the aforementioned complaint contains allegations that Charleston “quote[d] or paraphrase[d] nearly a dozen scholars without proper attribution” in her 2009 dissertation at the University of Michigan. Also highlighted in the report are claims that Charleston and her husband, LaVar Charleston, “recycle[d]” material from a study LaVar published in 2012 for a peer-reviewed journal article the couple co-authored in 2014.

LaVar currently serves as the deputy vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where Charleston worked as the school’s chief affirmative action officer prior to joining Harvard in 2020. Charleston also taught courses on “women, inequality, and policy analysis” while at UW-Madison, according to her Harvard bio.

“Through that sleight of hand, Sherri Ann Charleston effectively took credit for her husband’s work,” the Free Beacon report reads. “The 2014 paper, which was also coauthored with Jerlando Jackson, now the dean of Michigan State University’s College of Education, and appeared in the Journal of Negro Education, has the same methods, findings, and description of survey subjects as the 2012 study, which involved interviews with black computer science students and was first published by the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education.”

The 2014 study also appears to rely on interview responses LaVar utilized for his 2012 publication, the report added.

Regarding Charleston’s 2009 dissertation, the complaint reportedly alleges that Harvard’s chief diversity officer quoted a sentence from Eric Arnesen’s 1991 book, Waterfront Workers of New Orleans: Race, Class, and Politics, 1863-1923, without proper attribution. Charleston also purportedly “lifted” writings from other scholars, including “full paragraphs” from Rebecca Scott, who served as Charleston’s thesis adviser. Academic historians Alejandro de la Fuente, Louis Pérez, and Ada Ferrer were also among those Charleston allegedly plagiarized.

If proven true, Charleston’s plagiarism likely won’t result in any significant punishment from the university’s board, which voted “unanimously” to keep Gay as president after reports documenting her purported plagiarism broke. Despite resigning as president, Gay “remains a tenured faculty member” at Harvard, where she receives $900,000 a year.

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