Bill Ackman’s wife targeted in plagiarism crossfire after Claudine Gay resigns

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Neri Oxman may not be an Ivy League university president, but she is married to Bill Ackman, which explains why the media is suddenly interested in her Ph.D. dissertation.


Ms. Oxman apologized for neglecting to place quote marks around four paragraphs in her 330-page thesis completed in 2010 after Business Insider ran an expose Thursday that was seen as payback for her husband’s role in ousting Harvard President Claudine Gay.

“Bill Ackman’s celebrity academic wife Neri Oxman’s dissertation is marred by plagiarism,” the headline said.


The article noted that Mr. Ackman, a Harvard graduate and billionaire hedge fund manager, “helped lead the charge against Gay,” who resigned Tuesday amid an uproar over her handling of campus antisemitism and allegations that she committed nearly 50 instances of plagiarism in her scholarly works.


“An analysis by Business Insider found a similar pattern of plagiarism by Ackman’s wife, Neri Oxman, who became a tenured professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2017,” said the left-tilting publication.

An American-Israeli architect and designer, Ms. Oxman no longer teaches at MIT — she left a year after marrying Mr. Ackman in 2019 — leading some commentators to ask what the point of the article was other than to embarrass her and Mr. Ackman.


“I don’t particularly like @BillAckman, but this is HORSES—,” said Alex Berenson, the former New York Times reporter who runs the Unreported Truths substack, on X. “Put aside the fact the cases are not comparable. Ackman’s wife @NeriOxman is no longer a professor, so it doesn’t matter if her dissertation is a crayon copy of The Lorax, she isn’t violating any university’s standards.”

Also coming to Ms. Oxman‘s defense were conservatives who argued that the cases were hardly comparable.

Radio host Erick Erickson said Ms. Oxman “cited her referenced material at the end of each related paragraph but failed to use quotation marks in four of those paragraphs. Gay never put citations in at all.”

Oxman is not the president of an institution that expels for plagiarism,” he said on X. “Gay is. Oh wait, she’s not anymore, is she?”

Washington Free Beacon reporter Aaron Sibarium said, “Claudine Gay’s plagiarism was much more severe — paragraphs lifted verbatim without ANY attribution — and affected a much larger fraction of her work.”

“Even so, Oxman responded with a prompt apology and a correction — not a legal threat designed to suppress the story,” he said on X.

Nate Storey, editor of Surface Magazine, a design-and-architecture publication, called the Business Insider article a “hit piece” and “a sad attempt to settle a political score [Oxman] has nothing to do with.”

On the other side were those who cheered Business Insider for giving Mr. Ackman “a taste of your own medicine,” as Abdulrahman Alnassar put it on X.


“It’s about time that you and your family experience the same type of persecution that you have directed toward others, e.g., faculty, students, and more,” said the @Nowun account, described as “Here for the children of Gaza.”


Another anonymous account said: “Ok so when wife’s [sic] of rich guys do it: Plagiarism is okay. When a black lady does it: It’s not okay.”

The plagiarism angle erupted last month with Harvard at the center of a backlash against the intersectional left’s grip on U.S. universities, triggered by alarm over rising antisemitism in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israeli civilians.

You know that you struck a chord when they go after your wife, in this case my love and partner in life, @NeriOxman.

I am one of the most fortunate people in the universe in large part because of Neri.

Please see her post below about today’s Business Insider piece about her…

— Bill Ackman (@BillAckman) January 4, 2024

In a lengthy Thursday post on X, Ms. Oxman said she received that morning an email from Business Insider saying it had identified four paragraphs “where I omitted quotation marks for certain work that I used.”


“For each of the four paragraphs in question, I properly credited the original source’s author(s) with references at the end of each of the subject paragraphs, and in the detailed bibliography end pages of the dissertation,” she said. “In these four paragraphs, however, I did not place the subject language in quotation marks, which would be the proper approach for crediting the work. I regret and apologize for these errors.”


She said the publication also identified one passage where she paraphrased but did not credit German scientist Claus Mattheck in her MIT thesis, “Material-based Design Computation.”


“I deeply apologize to Mattheck for inadvertently not citing him when I paraphrased the above sentence,” Ms. Oxman said.


Her supporters contrasted her reaction with that of the Harvard Corp., which fought the plagiarism allegations against Ms. Gay, insisting in a Dec. 12 statement that a review found “a few instances of inadequate citations” but “no violation of Harvard’s standards for research misconduct.”


Ms. Gay has requested seven corrections across four articles while defending her work, telling the Boston Globe last month that “I stand by the integrity of my scholarship. Throughout my career, I have worked to ensure my scholarship adheres to the highest academic standards.”


Debate is continuing on the seriousness of Ms. Gay’s offenses, but her instances of near-verbatim paraphrasing of outside sources would appear to run afoul of Harvard’s policy on plagiarism.


The policy states: “It’s not enough to change a few words here and there and leave the rest; instead, you must completely restate the ideas in the passage in your own words. If your own language is too close to the original, then you are plagiarizing, even if you do provide a citation.”


Ms. Oxman won praise for her forthright response to the academic-misconduct charges.


“If @Harvard is curious, this is how you respond to plagiarism allegations,” said Michael McQuaid, head of decentralized finance at Bloq. “Immediately, and in depth, with transparency.”

The conservative publication Hot Air predicted that the article would be “exposed for the hit job it is” and praised Ms. Oxman’s reply.

“Ms. Oxman took the wind completely out of BI’s sails with her concise and graceful explanation,” said Hot Air writer Beege Welborn. “It was, for lack of a better term, textbook.”

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