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Controversy Surrounds Neri Oxman’s Dissertation: Plagiarism Allegations Overshadow Academic Achievement

StoriesControversy Surrounds Neri Oxman's Dissertation: Plagiarism Allegations Overshadow Academic Achievement

Bill Ackman, a prominent hedge fund manager and major donor to Harvard University, spotlighted alleged plagiarism by Harvard’s former president, Claudine Gay, as he pushed for her dismissal following what he viewed as her mishandling of protests against Israel’s actions in Gaza on campus. This spotlight on plagiarism also extended to his wife, Neri Oxman, a tenured professor at MIT, who faced similar allegations of plagiarism in her 2010 doctoral dissertation, as revealed by Business Insider.

Oxman’s dissertation reportedly contained multiple instances of lifted passages without proper citations from various sources, violating academic integrity guidelines. Despite these allegations, both Ackman and Oxman chose not to comment on the matter when approached by Business Insider, but they did respond via an online platform.

The Controversy Surrounding Oxman’s Dissertation Plagiarism

Oxman’s alleged plagiarism included passages taken from works by Israeli scholars, a New York University historian, a book by a German physicist, and a paper from the Royal Society of London. The dissertation also reportedly reused phrasing in subsequent papers, a practice discouraged by MIT’s guidelines on ethical writing. While reusing material isn’t formally a violation, ethical guidelines advise against it.

Similar accusations of plagiarism were directed at Gay, who was found to have used passages from others’ work without proper citation. Some academics perceived Gay’s actions as relatively inconsequential, stating that such practices are common in academic writing.

Ackman’s Campaign for Leadership Change

Bill Ackman, a significant Harvard donor, actively campaigned for Gay’s removal, emphasizing her alleged plagiarism as a primary reason. He strongly advocated for Harvard to terminate Gay’s faculty position, citing it as a crucial matter for academic integrity. Ackman’s vocal stance on this issue coincided with widespread protests at Harvard regarding the Israel-Gaza situation, which he labeled as antisemitic and accused Gay of inadequately addressing.

Acknowledging his substantial donations to Harvard, including a $25 million contribution in 2014, Ackman’s persistent efforts to oust Gay stemmed from his concerns about both the handling of campus protests and the broader principles of academic integrity.

The Resignation and Ongoing Advocacy

Pressure mounted on Gay, eventually leading to her resignation as Harvard’s president due in part to personal attacks and racial animus. However, Ackman continues to pursue further leadership changes, targeting university presidents who testified about Israel-Gaza-related student protests. Two of these presidents, including Gay, are no longer in their positions, while one, MIT’s president Sally Kornbluth, remains.

When asked about Kornbluth, Ackman hinted at ongoing developments, indicating potential future actions.

This controversy surrounding alleged plagiarism, academic integrity, and advocacy for leadership changes has sparked discussions and raised questions about the accountability and ethical standards of academic institutions, drawing significant attention within the academic community and beyond.

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