Columbia University DEI chief Alade McKen slapped with significant plagiarism allegations: report

Yet another prominent diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) advocate at an elite university has been accused of plagiarism.

Columbia University Irving Medical Center’s chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer, Alade McKen, has been accused of lifting significant material from sources such as Wikipedia for his doctoral dissertation without attribution, according to the Washington Free Beacon. 

The Free Beacon, which cited an anonymous complaint submitted to the university, published a bombshell report on claims made against McKen. 

“The allegations implicate approximately a fifth of McKen’s 163-page dissertation, ‘UBUNTU’ I am because we are: A case study examining the experiences of an African-centered Rites of Passage program within a community-based organization,’ submitted to Iowa State University’s School of Education in 2021. More than two of those pages are a near-verbatim facsimile of Wikipedia’s entry on ‘Afrocentric education,’ which is not cited anywhere in the dissertation,” Free Beacon reporter Aaron Sibarium wrote. 


Another prominent diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) advocate has been accused of plagiarism. (Adobe Stock)

The Free Beacon also published side-by-side images of the Wikipedia page and McKen’s dissertation. 

“Other pages lift paragraphs from well-known African scholars, including the University of Rwanda’s Chika Ezeanya-Esiobu, while making small tweaks to their prose, such as reordering certain clauses or changing a ‘were’ to a ‘was,’” Sibarium wrote. 

“Some of the scholars McKen allegedly plagiarized appear in the dissertation’s bibliography but not in in-text citations,” Sibarium continued. “Others, like Ezeanya-Esiobu, an expert on ‘indigenous knowledge’ who has worked with numerous international agencies, including the World Bank, aren’t cited at all.”

Columbia University and McKen did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Sibarium also posted several side-by-side comparisons of McKen’s work on social media:

Ezeanya-Esiobu told the Free Beacon that the passages “can definitely be classified as plagiarism.”

McKen, who attended Binghamton University, received his PhD in education, social, and cultural studies from Iowa State University, a master of science degree in higher education administration from Baruch College, and holds a diversity and inclusion certificate from Cornell University, according to Columbia’s website. He was previously assistant dean of recruitment, diversity, and inclusion for the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.


Columbia University Irving Medical Center’s chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer has been accused of plagiarism.  (Fox News)

“The complaint against McKen, which was filed anonymously, marks the third time in one month that a diversity administrator at an Ivy League school has been hit with charges of plagiarism,” Sibarium wrote. “McKen’s dissertation contains some of the most extreme examples of plagiarism thus far. The 50-page complaint, which was submitted to Iowa State University as well as Columbia, outlines nearly 60 cases in which McKen, who assumed his post at the medical center last year, borrows passages from Africanists, education scholars, and diversity consultants without attribution.”

The complaint also accused McKen of lifting work from over 30 people, including author Kwayera Archer-Cunningham and scholars LaGarrett King, Michael Adeyemi and Augustus Adeyinka. 

Earlier this month, McKen, who is in his first full calendar year in the role of DEI chief, shared his priorities for 2024. 

“Columbia has shown an openness to explore new opportunities to advance inclusive practice and is engaged in thinking about how to lead in DEI,” he said. 

“Everyone here is working to create an environment that drives fair representation,” McKen continued. “It’s a conscious effort, and there’s always work to be done, but everyone is committed to doing the work.”

Claudine Gay faced dozens of plagiarism allegations against her prior to her resignation. (Getty Images)

The Free Beacon reporter’s Sibarium also first reported an anonymous letter reportedly sent to Harvard University earlier this year that chief diversity and inclusion officer Sherri Ann Charleston committed 40 instances of plagiarism over the years. 

Some argued that Charleston committed a worse “scholarly sin” than former Harvard president Claudine Gay, who resigned from her role in January after she was accused of committing multiple counts of plagiarism throughout her own career and being at the center of the school’s recent antisemitism scandal. 

Charleston remains in her position. 


Fox News’ Gabriel Hays contributed to this report.