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Plagiarism Allegations Against Claudine Gay

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  • The Bronx Defenders and the Fallout From War
  • Undoing Roe: ‘A Shameful Saga’
  • Buying Cashmere Without an Environmental Cost

Credit…Ken Cedeno/Reuters

To the Editor:

Re “Why Claudine Gay Should Go,” by John McWhorter (column, nytimes.com, Dec. 21):

Mr. McWhorter argues that Claudine Gay, the president of Harvard, should be held to the same academic standards as the institution’s undergraduates. If only that were true!

When I was a graduate student there in the late 1990s, I was warned by a senior professor not to pursue a case of plagiarism because it might lead to a lawsuit. The university, he confided, had recently lost a costly court case brought by the parents of a student accused of plagiarism.

Plagiarists are rarely brought to account, especially in academe, where it is often treated as a minor delict. How do I know? I’ve been plagiarized by at least two other academics, including a visiting professor at Harvard during my first year of graduate school. Neither she nor the other offender ever faced any consequences.

Andrew I. Port
Detroit
The writer is a professor of history at Wayne State University.

To the Editor

Re “Harvard Finds More ‘Duplicative Language’ of President” (news article, Dec. 22):

I find it quite odd for The Times to consistently lead the coverage of Claudine Gay’s academic work with an overemphasis that “conservative” voices have driven the claims of plagiarism.

The issue is not the political background of the whistle-blowers, but the actual charges. I (hardly a conservative if it matters) wrote articles, a master’s thesis, a Ph.D. dissertation and a book, and I can guarantee that in each case I knew my writing and what I got from other sources (primary and secondary).

Nothing bothered my mentor and friend, the late historian Stan Kutler, more than plagiarists who claimed, after getting caught, that their stealing was an oversight, a little mistake, a slight error, a problem in checking content. No, they simply got caught.

Dr. Gay would surely support a grad student’s expulsion for plagiarizing. Her turn.

Joseph L. Davis
Madison, Wis.

To the Editor:

The New York Times has devoted a startling amount of coverage to sorting out the question of Claudine Gay’s plagiarism. May I suggest that before devoting more, the newspaper’s reporters might want to examine publications by all the Harvard presidents who came before her? And perhaps some of those by its most famous professors, too.

The computer technology that exists today may allow critics to scrutinize her writings far more than any past scholar’s work was scrutinized when such technological capabilities did not exist.

Let’s see how much she is an outlier in her community — or not — before condemning her so roundly.

Janna Malamud Smith
Milton, Mass.
The writer graduated from Harvard in 1973.

The Bronx Defenders and the Fallout From War

Some lawyers in housing and family courts have said they want nothing to do with members of the Bronx Defenders.Credit…Angela Weiss/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

To the Editor:

Re “Feud Over War Imperils Future of Legal Group; Claims of Antisemitism at Bronx Defenders” (front page, Dec. 15):

I am an attorney and a former priest at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in the South Bronx.

The Bronx Defenders are among the best lawyers in the city. A lawyer’s duty is to represent a client “zealously,” and the Bronx Defenders represent their clients passionately. I always felt confident when they represented a parishioner or someone I knew from the community.

Apparently they bring the same passion to advocating for Palestinians, seeing the hardships they face as similar to those of their South Bronx clients.

I urgently hope that they can see that, throughout history, the Jewish people have suffered from prejudice that is also similar to the prejudice their clients have experienced, and, for the sake of their clients, save the Bronx Defenders.

(Rev.) Martha Overall
New York

To the Editor:

Your article about the Bronx Defenders epitomizes my deepest fears about the effects of the Israel-Hamas war on the United States.

Longstanding progressive American allies in the campaigns for free speech, civil rights, marriage equality, reproductive freedom, L.G.B.T.Q. protections, educational and legal reform, health care for all, affordable housing, academic freedom, animal and environmental protection — and more — are fighting each other over support for Israel versus support for Palestine as if no compromise were possible and this one point of conflict outweighed years of cooperative work, personal friendships and even family ties.

Marches, flag-waving and ill-informed slogan-shouting, especially on college campuses, will have little effect on the war, but they might alienate enough normally Democratic voters to let Donald Trump win a close election. That would harm the country beyond our wildest imagining far into the future.

Judy Olinick
Middlebury, Vt.

Undoing Roe: ‘A Shameful Saga’

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times; Illustration by Matt Dorfman

To the Editor:

Re “Behind the Scenes at the Dismantling of Roe” (front page, Dec. 17):

This brilliant account of the undoing of Roe v. Wade exposes a shameful saga of partisan judging by justices who were committed to ending a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion even as they misled the Senate about their respect for long-settled precedent.

Appointed by then-President Donald Trump with the mandate of reversing Roe, the three newest justices joined the reactionary core of Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito to fashion a decision that will live in infamy, rivaled in disgrace only by the cases of Citizens United and Dred Scott.

The story of how the conservative majority manipulated the calendaring and hearing of the case, and their activism in going beyond the limited relief initially sought by Mississippi, will further erode public confidence in the integrity of the court and undermine its legitimacy as a once revered institution.

Gerald Harris
New York
The writer is a retired New York City Criminal Court judge.

Buying Cashmere Without an Environmental Cost

Goats grazing on the Mongolian Plateau in Central Asia.Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Demand for Cashmere Is Harming the Environment,” by Ginger Allington (Opinion guest essay, Dec. 17):

While, of course, we must do all we can to preserve the incredibly fragile world we walk on, we can own cashmere — buy it used!

Dr. Allington’s vivid essay teaches us to eschew the fabric that comes from the destructive practices used in herding Mongolian goats. But, as she says, “consider vintage cashmere.” We can head to our nearest consignment shop or other retailer of preworn clothing and find cashmere treasures for our loved ones during these alarming times.

Here’s to such warmth!

Deborah Fried
New Haven, Conn.

To the Editor:

Thank you so much for Ginger Allington’s guest essay on cheap cashmere fibers. It is up to every one of us to make a difference by choosing sustainable options.

I had the luxury of buying several real cashmere sweaters in the 1970s. I am still wearing them! And I have just inherited a batch from my mother’s closet that are all still perfectly wearable because of the quality. The cheap cashmere that is being produced is doubly egregious because it won’t last one season.

At what cost fast fashion? Is it the chicken or the egg? Buyers should stop buying, or manufacturers should stop producing?

Susan Stock
Toronto

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