Accusations of plagiarism appear to be the newest weapon in the fierce battle for leadership and direction at elite universities.
For weeks, William Ackman, the billionaire hedge fund manager, has campaigned on social media against Claudine Gay, who resigned as president of Harvard amid accusations of plagiarizing other academics and not taking a strong enough stance against antisemitism on campus.
But that battle came home after Business Insider, an online publication, published similar accusations of plagiarism against Ackman’s wife, Neri Oxman, an architect and designer, who has a Ph.D. in design calculus from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Business Insider said on Friday that Dr. Oxman “stole entire sentences and paragraphs from Wikipedia, other academics, and technical documents in her academic writings.”
Those examples came a day after the publication reported several errors in attributing the work of others in his dissertation. Dr. Oxman apologized for those errors on Thursday and saying They involved only a few paragraphs of a 330-page thesis.
On Friday night, before Business Insider published its latest story, Ackman posted on social media that the publication had contacted his wife to inform her of its recent findings, but that he and Dr. Oxman, former professor at MIT, had not had time to investigate the accuracy of the accusations.
“It is unfortunate that my actions to address issues in higher education have led to these attacks against my family,” Ackman, founder of Pershing Square Capital, said on X, the social media platform where he has a million followers.
In response, he wrote, he would begin a plagiarism review of all current MIT faculty members; Sally Kornbluth, president of MIT; and the university’s governing body, and would share the results with the public. “This experience has inspired me to save all news organizations from the problem of plagiarizing reviews,” Ackman wrote.
Later on Friday he posted that he would also review the work of journalists at Business Insider.
It was unclear whether he was targeting Dr. Kornbluth because his wife had received her doctorate. at the university or for what he considered an inadequate denunciation of anti-Semitism by Dr. Kornbluth at a congressional hearing last month.
Through a spokesperson, Mr. Ackman and Dr. Oxman declined to comment beyond their comments about X. Kimberly Allen, an MIT spokeswoman, said in an email that university leaders “remain focused on ensure that the vital work of the people of MIT continues.” , work that is essential to the security, prosperity and quality of life of the nation.”
Jonathan Bailey, a copyright and plagiarism consultant who also runs the website Plagiarism Today, said he was concerned that plagiarism was becoming weaponized.
“I am concerned that we will see a sharp increase in poor quality analyzes that attempt to exaggerate minor issues or show plagiarism when the evidence does not support it,” he said.
Business Insider’s first broadside against Dr. Oxman arrived Thursday, two days after Dr. Gay resigned, and the allegations appeared similar to those against Dr. Gay.
Dr. Oxman apologized the same day.
“In dedicating my career to the advancement of science and innovation, I have always recognized the profound importance of the contributions of my peers and those who came before me,” he wrote in X.
In the age of AI, accusations of plagiarism might be easier to make and can easily be used as a weapon by either side in a dispute.
“Certainly, on both sides, plagiarism has become a weapon, just as the criminal justice system has become a weapon,” said Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor who had his own dispute over accusations. of plagiarism years ago and was acquitted by Harvard. “Today everything is armed in the United States.”
Dr. Gay was accused of plagiarism in her 1997 Harvard dissertation and other academic articles. She acknowledged some citation errors and asked for corrections, according to Harvard. The university’s board of trustees said she had convened a three-member independent review board that cleared her of academic misconduct. But she has refused to publicly reveal the names of the academics.
Mr. Ackman played a major role in discrediting Dr. Gay, publishing frequent broadsides against her.
After Dr. Gay resigned as president, Ackman criticized the decision to allow her to remain on the Harvard faculty. “There would be nothing wrong with her staying on campus if she didn’t have serious plagiarism problems,” Ackman said. wrote in X. She added that rewarding her “with a well-paid faculty position sets a very bad precedent for academic integrity at Harvard.”
After Business Insider published the allegations against Dr. Oxman on Thursday, Ackman wrote on
In its first article, Business Insider accused Dr. Oxman of plagiarizing “multiple paragraphs” from her 2010 MIT doctoral dissertation, “including at least one passage taken directly from other writers without citing them.”
On Thursday, Dr. Oxman, a former senior lecturer at MIT’s Media Lab, said she had cited sources but “omitted quotation marks in certain works I used” in four paragraphs of her 330-page thesis.
Dr. Oxman also apologized Thursday for paraphrasing a phrase from a book by Claus Mattheck in her thesis and not citing it.
Dr. Oxman was portrayed in a 2018 profile in The New York Times as a brilliant and quirky scholar who founded a discipline she called material ecology, which worked “with natural organisms like slime molds, monarchs and silkworms, to create extraordinary objects and structures that do all kinds of extraordinary things.” Born in Israel, she was a first lieutenant in the Israeli Air Force. She and Mr. Ackman married in 2019.
Kirsten Noyes contributed to the research.