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Allegations of Plagiarism Surface Against DEI Official at Columbia U

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Allegations of Plagiarism Surface Against DEI Official at Columbia U

Edited by:  TJVNews.com

Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center finds itself embroiled in controversy this week as allegations of plagiarism surface against one of its officials responsible for diversity, equity, and inclusion. As was reported in the New York Times, the accused, Alade McKen, faces accusations of copying significant portions of his doctoral dissertation, casting a shadow over his academic integrity and raising questions about the university’s commitment to ethical scholarship.

The 55-page complaint, filed anonymously with the university, alleges that McKen plagiarized sections of his 2021 dissertation from various sources, including the works of over two dozen scholars and Wikipedia entries, according to the information provided in the NYT report. The complaint, made public by The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news outlet, shines a spotlight on the contentious issue of academic dishonesty within elite academic institutions.

The complaint against McKen accuses him of lifting passages from the Wikipedia entry for “Afrocentric education” and incorporating material from the published works and doctoral dissertations of multiple scholars without proper attribution, the report added. The anonymous author of the complaint poses a pointed question at the outset: “Is Alade McKen a plagiarist?”—before presenting evidence to support the accusation.

Despite attempts by the NYT to reach McKen for comment, he remained silent on the matter. Meanwhile, Iowa State University, where McKen obtained his doctoral degree, acknowledged receipt of the complaint and pledged to review it thoroughly. Angie Hunt, a spokesperson for Iowa State University emphasized to the NYT the institution’s commitment to upholding ethical standards and maintaining public trust in research integrity.

Columbia University, on the other hand, opted not to comment to the NYT on the specifics of the case, citing its policy against discussing individual personnel matters. However, the university reaffirmed its dedication to academic ethics and integrity, emphasizing its stringent standards for all members of the academic community.

Upon review by The New York Times, similarities between McKen’s work and the Wikipedia page were apparent, suggesting a troubling pattern of unattributed borrowing.

One such instance highlighted in the complaint involves McKen’s reference to Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a prominent Black scholar, wherein McKen’s text closely mirrors language found in the Wikipedia article on “Afrocentric education.” The NYT reported that despite minor alterations, the core content remains unchanged, indicating a lack of originality in McKen’s scholarly endeavors.

This revelation comes at a time when Ivy League institutions grapple with a series of plagiarism accusations against diversity administrators. The report in the NYT indicated that McKen joins Sherri Ann Charleston and Shirley R. Greene, both from Harvard University, as the third administrator to face such allegations within a month. The recurrence of plagiarism charges within this select group raises concerns about academic rigor and accountability within elite academic circles.

The implications of these allegations extend beyond individual reputations, casting a shadow over the integrity of academic scholarship and the credibility of diversity initiatives within Ivy League institutions.

Dr. Claudine Gay, the former president of Harvard University, resigned in January amid revelations of more than 40 instances of plagiarism in her academic work. The NYT reported that the allegations surfaced after Dr. Gay faced criticism for wholly inadequate responses to an eruption of virulent anti-Semitism on campus following the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel. Dr. Gay, the first Black woman to hold the position of Harvard’s president, stepped down after just six months in the role.

Shortly after Dr. Gay’s resignation, Business Insider reported that Neri Oxman, the wife of hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman, a vocal critic of Dr. Gay, was accused of plagiarizing portions of her doctoral dissertation. As per the information in the NYT report, the allegations targeted Oxman’s work and also drew attention to possible retribution against Ackman for his advocacy against Dr. Gay.

Neri Oxman issued an apology on Twitter, acknowledging “errors” in her dissertation. Bill Ackman, linking the accusations against his wife to his campaign against Dr. Gay, described them as “my actions to address problems in higher education,” the NYT reported.

McKen assumed his role at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in September 2023. Before joining the medical center, McKen served as the assistant dean of recruitment, diversity, and inclusion at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.

According to the NYT report, McKen holds a doctoral degree in education, social and cultural studies from Iowa State University, complemented by a master’s degree in higher education administration from Baruch College and a diversity and inclusion certificate from Cornell University.

As the investigation unfolds, the allegations against McKen serve as a reminder of the importance of upholding academic integrity and ethical conduct in scholarly pursuits. The incident underscores the need for vigilance in ensuring that scholarly work is conducted with honesty, transparency, and respect for intellectual property—a cornerstone of academic excellence at institutions like Columbia University.



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