Christina J. Cross, Harvard Professor, Plagiarism

Plagiarism Claims Against Harvard Professor Slammed As Baseless Amid Intensifying Attacks On Black Scholars

Conservative activist Christopher Rufo’s accusations toward Professor Christina J. Cross have been denied by the authors of the works he claims she plagiarized.

After conservative activist Christopher Rufo accused sociology professor Christina J. Cross, a Black female professor at Harvard, of plagiarism, university administration came to her defense and called the pattern of attacks “troubling.”

As The Harvard Crimson reports, Rufo made the allegations as part of a larger criticism of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in higher education. Rufo’s accusations reflect a common criticism from conservatives who believe that academia has a vendetta against those with a conservative point of view.

This marks the fourth time that a Black woman scholar at the prestigious Ivy League university has been accused of academic dishonesty, after Claudine Gay, Sherri A. Charleston, and Shirley R. Greene. 

Rufo’s accusations toward Cross have been denied by the authors of the works he accuses Cross of plagiarizing, including Stacey J. Bosick, the current associate vice president of academic affairs at Sonoma State University.

Bosick gave a written statement to the Crimson indicating that she was concerned about “the disproportionate surveillance of Black scholarship.”

Jonathan Bailey, an expert on plagiarism, said in an interview that the arguments presented by Rufo and others are not at all concerned with anything academic, but were essentially political stunts.

“It’s using plagiarism allegations, not to address issues of academic or research integrity, but rather to address political or social grievances that a person may have.”

Bailey continued, “It’s putting the focus not on the cases that actually impact science and impact academia” but those which “are cases of political expediency.”

Sociology department chair Frank Dobbin was sent an anonymous letter which detailed the belief that sociology professor Christina J. Cross had engaged in plagiarism. Dobbin responded to the letter in a statement issued on March 24, calling the accusations “bogus.”

“We find these bogus claims to be particularly troubling in the context of a series of attacks on Black women in academia with the clear subtext that they have no place in our universities,” Dobbin wrote. “Dr. Cross is a brilliant scholar who we ranked at the very top of our pool of applicants when we hired her, from a field of hundreds, on the strength of her scholarship.”

In addition to Dobbin, 18 scholars who head large and publicly funded datasets described the accusations of Cross as “false.” One of those datasets, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, was named as a source that Cross plagiarized.

In a statement released on March 21, the scholars said her description of the datasets was not plagiarism, but a good, solid research practice.

“It’s not simply that Dr. Cross’s writings do not constitute plagiarism,” the scholars wrote. “Rather, her description of a large public dataset in this standardized way is simply good research practice—helping to ensure replicability and transparency.”

Rufo’s attacks on Cross were framed by Donald Moynihan, the chair of Georgetown University’s public policy school, as an attempt to intimidate Black scholars of race in a Substack post.

Further, Moynihan described Rufo’s playbook and implicated Twitter/X owner Elon Musk as one of the main drivers of the spread of Rufo’s claims. He also later discusses the “obsessive” coverage of outlets like the New York Times as a co-producer of Rufo’s plagiarism “brand.”

“The game plan is simple. Selectively target scholars who study race, who will be primarily scholars of color. Launch an anonymous accusation. Then report on this as newsworthy in right wing media, hoping the mainstream media will pick it up. On social media it will find its own audience. In less than 24 hours, Rufo’s post had over 800,000 views, boosted by far right luminaries such as the guy who pushed the Pizzagate conspiracy. Elon Musk replied to one of Rufo’s post, which dramatically increases the spread of the false claims.”

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