Saturday, September 09, 2006

Flipping Filippo, Batman, Gunasekera files federal suit against Ohio U./officials

Jim Phillips of the Athens News reports:

Jay Gunasekera contends in his federal suit that Provost Kathy Krendl and Dennis Irwin, dean of OU's Russ College of Engineering and Technology, violated his 14th Amendment rights to due process when they suspended him from his graduate faculty status in the mechanical engineering department of the Russ College.

Although not mentioned in the article, this looks like a 1983 action, which follows a previous filing of state claims.

One of the first hurdles for a 1983 plaintiff is show plaintiff was deprived of a constitutionally-protected PROPERTY INTEREST without due process. Here, OU stripped Gunasekera and his faculty colleague Bevin Mehta of their duties to advise graduate students, and denied them pay raises for 2006-07. Gunasekera stepped down as chair of mechanical engineering, though he denies that move was prompted by the plagiarism scandal. IPBiz notes it's not clear Gunasekera is going to make the first hurdle in a 1983 action. IPBiz recalls a great line from the 7th circuit, in the context of an equal protection case, wherein there was a remark to the effect that the Constitution does not recognize Hungarian [or some other country] dentists as a protected class. IPBiz is not sure that the right to advise graduate students is a recognized property right. But, who knows? And, Ohio is not in the 7th Circuit.

The Phillips article also states:

In his federal suit, the professor asks for a declaration that Krendl and Irwin have violated his due-process rights, and for injunctive relief including "reinstatement, expungement (of his disciplinary record), a meaningful name-clearing opportunity, and restoration of back pay and fringe benefits," plus compensatory and punitive damages and attorney fees.

There are other stories about plagiarism.

For example, the Eureka Reporter:

Earlier this week, The Eureka Reporter learned that at least 10 sentences or parts of sentences in a Times-Standard column published Saturday under Gallegos’ name had appeared six years earlier in a scholarly paper called “The Ox-Box Incident,” written by Robert Louis Felix, professor emeritus of legal research at the University of South Carolina School of Law.

Gallegos said Wednesday that he did not intend to represent Felix’s work as his own. “It certainly wasn’t my intention to make direct quotes. Sometimes when you’re using things, you make use of an expression or a phrase,” he said.


On the subject of change in Humboldt County, Gallegos wrote in the “My Word” column, “While we can affect the character of that change, we cannot affect its inevitability.”

Forty years earlier, Kennedy spoke of revolution in similar terms: “We can affect its character; we cannot alter its inevitability.”

In at least five other instances, phrases from Gallegos’ “My Word” column resemble or duplicate phrases previously attributed to Kennedy.

When informed of the second known occurrence of Gallegos’ apparent quotation without attribution, Lee Bowker, Ph.D., emeritus dean of Humboldt State University’s College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, said, “I don’t know if I could trust someone who was caught doing that twice. That’s not just as a professor, but as a citizen in this society. Because if you found him doing it twice, how many times did he do it and no one found out?”

As previously reported in The Eureka Reporter, Bowker said Wednesday that in academic circles, at least, plagiarism or the appearance thereof is considered a serious matter.

IPBiz to Professor Bowker: If you are a student at Ohio University (or a former student), plagiarism is considered a serious matter, but if you are a professor at Harvard Law School, plagiarism is NOT a serious matter at all, because law is considered a different culture (see Dershowitz).

IPBiz notes someone has even linked the death of Steve Irwin to plagiarism:

Irwin’s final stunt, caught on tape during the filming of a new TV series, was the last episode in a lifetime of cheating death. It was a fitting end indeed, as there comes a time in every man’s life when he just has to die.

Let this be a lesson to you, dear students, because life in academia plays to a similar tune. Undoubtedly, over the course of the past couple of days, each new professor in each new classroom has given you the same spiel on the rules and regulations of academia, and perhaps they seemed to overemphasize the consequences of breaking the cardinal rule: plagiarize and your time at university is immediately over.

Some rules are meant to be broken, like when your mother tells you not to eat fudge for breakfast or when you spend the entire day in bed because you’re busy, uh, sleeping. Other more serious offences, like driving 30km over the speed limit because you were rocking out to your favourite band on the first sunny day after a long, depressing winter, can be rectified by paying a hefty fine. However, storing forbidden notes on your fancy calculator before a dreaded mid-term exam or buying an essay off the Internet because you decided to get drunk the night before it was due are evil doings that will get you more than just a slap on the wrist. It may seem harsh, but you won’t get any second chances and it will ruin your personal credibility, maybe for a lifetime.

So if you didn’t learn anything watching Steve Irwin on the Discovery Channel, at least learn this: some risks aren’t worth taking. In conclusion, if you want your university career to survive, don’t cheat. Otherwise, you may end up getting impaled by a stingray. Or, you know, expelled.

IPBiz notes: Definitely good advice for students at Ohio University, but university professors at Harvard can eat fudge for breakfast anytime they want.

As a footnote, IPBiz observes that although Wikipedia has an entry for Theodore Streleski [Theodore Streleski was a graduate student in mathematics at Stanford University who murdered his former faculty adviser, the professor Karel de Leeuw, with a ball peen hammer in August 1978] there does not seem to be an entry for Rutgers chemistry legend Joseph San Filippo, Jr. Although San Filippo did not kill anyone, arguably he did more "wrong things" than did Gunasekera, but San Filippo did better in federal court than IPBiz predicts Gunasekera will. Even though one can find some material on San Filippo, the defining "collateral damage" of the San Filippo affair has not yet made the internet.

Of a Rutgers/Ohio U. nexus, the Rutgers football team, after beating Illinois 33-0 on Sept. 9, has home games against Ohio University and Howard the next two weeks before their first conference game, at the University of South Florida, on Sept. 29.

Separately, there are lessons from the San Filippo affair of relevance to New Jersey's proposed bond issues for stem cells. Of Vai Sikahema's "Vai's View" on Rutgers, will NBC Channel 10 in Philadelphia ever post the text?


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