Harvard University: A Sticky Wicket, Right, Old Chap?

April 22, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I know plastic recycling does not work. The garbage pick up outfit assures me it recycles. Yeah, sure. However, I know one place where recycling is alive and well. I watched a video about someone named Francesca Gino, a Harvard professor. A YouTuber named Pete Judo presents information showing that Ms. Gino did some recycling. He did not award her those little green Ouroboros symbols. Copying and pasting are out of bounds in the Land of Ivory Towers in which Harvard has allegedly the ivory-est. You can find his videos at https://www.youtube.com/@PeteJudo1.


The august group of academic scholars are struggling to decide which image best fits the 21st-century version of their prestigious university: The garbage recycling image representing reuse of trash generated by other scholars or the snake-eating-its-tail image of the Ouroboros. So many decisions have these elite thinkers. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Looking forward to your new minority stake in a company in a far off land?

As impressive a source as a YouTuber is, I think I found an even more prestigious organ of insight, the estimable New York Post. Navigate through the pop ups until you see the “real” news story “Harvard Medical School Professor Massively Plagiarized Report for Lockheed Martin Suit: Judge.” The thrust of this story is that a moonlighting scholar “plagiarized huge swaths of a report he submitted on carcinogenic chemicals, according to a federal judge, who agreed to remove it as evidence in a class action case against Lockheed Martin.”

Is this Medical School-related item spot on? I don’t know. Is the Gino-us activity on the money? For that matter, is a third Harvard professor of ethics guilty of an ethical violation in a journal article about — wait for it — ethics? I don’t know, and I don’t have the energy to figure out if plagiarism is the new Covid among academics in Boston.

However, based on the drift of these examples, I can offer several observations:

  1. Harvard University has a public relations problem. Judging from the coverage in outstanding information services as YouTube and the New York Post, the remarkable school needs to get its act together and do some “messaging.” When the plagiarism pandemic is real or fabricated by the type of adversary Microsoft continually says creates trouble, Harvard’s reputation is going to be worn down by a stream of digital bad news.
  2. The ways of a most Ivory Tower thing are mysterious. Nevertheless, it is clear that the mechanism for hiring, motivating, directing, and preventing academic superstars from sticking their hand in a pile of dog doo is not working. That falls into what I call “governance.” I want to use my best Harvard rhetoric now: “Hey, folks, you ain’t making good moves.”
  3. The top dog (president, CFO, bursar, whatever) you are on the path to an “F.” Imagine what a moral stick in the mud like William James would think of Harvard’s leadership if he were still waddling around, mumbling about radical pragmatism. Even more frightening is an AI version of this sporty chap doing a version of AI Jesus on Twitch. Instead of recycling Christian phrases, he would combine his thoughts about ethics, psychology, and Harvard with the possibly true stories about Harvard integrity herpes. Yikes.

Net net: What about educating tomorrow’s leaders. Should these young minds emulate what professors are doing, or should they be learning to pursue knowledge without shortcuts, cheating, plagiarism, and looking like characters from The Simpsons?

Stephen E Arnold, April 22, 2024


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