Thursday, September 18, 2008

Philip Walker gets it wrong on Biden's law school plagiarism

Philip Walker writes in the Macon News:

As far as the two allegations of plagiarism, he was cleared of all charges by a panel under the authority of the Delaware Supreme Court. [of the second allegation-->]Public officials often use speech writers. When these writers use material that is plagiarized it is the public figure that looks bad. Sen. Biden said that it was an oversight to not attribute the quotes to British Labor Party leader, Neil Kinnock. On Dec. 21, 1987, the court's Board on Professional Responsibility ruled that Mr. Biden had not violated any rules.

Mr. Walker also wrote:

In the other case, a law school faculty report concluded that Mr. Biden had “used five pages from a published law review article without quotation or attribution.” Sen. Biden admitted that he had misunderstood the rules of citation and footnoting. The faculty report suggested that he be failed in the course for which he had submitted the 15-page paper. He was given an F in the course but that grade was stricken when he retook the course the next year. He received a grade of 80 in the course and graduated in 1968.

IPBiz had previously noted:

IPBiz notes that the issue, on applying for membership in a state bar, would be full disclosure of past infractions (traffic violations, etc.) and analysis of whether said infractions, disclosed, would adversely impact bar membership. Typically, a state bar would not re-adjudicate past issues that were decided by a different body. Thus, the text that Biden was cleared of allegations that he committed plagiarism in law school by a panel under the authority of the Delaware Supreme Court doesn't, on its face, sound correct. The Delaware Supreme Court would lack jurisdiction to pass judgment on an offense committed within the Syracuse Law School. A body of the Supreme Court of Delaware could say that "what happened at Syracuse did not render Biden unfit to practice law in Delaware." How they could say Biden did, or did not, plagiarize at Syracuse in the 1960's is a mystery.

Of the text --misunderstood the rules of citation and footnoting--, the words of Arthur M. Cooper, the student who first identified the rather obvious problem with what Joe Biden did at Syracuse Law School, are revealing:

“In critiquing Joe’s [paper], I found five or six pages out of a law journal without citation,” Cooper said Sunday. “I told Joe about it, but he said he didn’t think there was a problem. I told him I thought I had to bring it up to the professor.”

“My opinion was that he probably knew what he was doing,” Cooper says now of the SU incident.

It is evident that the general public is not too bothered with what Joe Biden did at Syracuse in 1965. It is important to get the story straight.

Apparently, Biden himself brought the Syracuse plagiarism matter to the attention of Delaware disciplinary authorities when it became widely publicized in 1987, about 20 years AFTER the plagiarism happened. That may suggest Biden did not report the matter when he initially applied for bar membership. It is simply incorrect to say: he was cleared of all charges by a panel under the authority of the Delaware Supreme Court. The disciplinary authority would address whether the plagiarism incident adversely affected Biden's ability to practice to law in Delaware and whether the failure to initially report the incident (assuming there was a failure) was problematic. The disciplinary found that the incidents did not adversely affect Biden's ability to practice law in Delaware; they did not "clear" him of what he did in the past.

Mr. Walker also wrote, on the general topic of citation (and not really on-point to the Biden matter):

It is important to give the proper accreditation to the originator of a statement or document. Read the following quotes for example:

1. “I trust God speaks through me.”

2. “We are a nation at war and in many [ways] the reasons for war are fights over energy sources...” Speaking on the Iraq war “.... our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God.”

3. “I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator ... I am fighting for the Lord ... I would like to thank Providence and the Almighty for choosing me of all people ...”

Without proper citation or footnoting people may think that these quotes are from the same individual. People may not realize where one quote ends and another begins, or may be confused as to who the author is. The first quote is from George W. Bush, the second two from Gov. Sarah Palin, and the third is Adolf Hitler.

The problem with Biden's use of the Kinnock's speech was that the facts he adopted from Kinnock were NOT facts as to Biden.
Walker ignores that point, which is more significant than the alleged plagiarism of the Kinnock speech. Failure to attribute is a bad thing, but stating falsities is worse.


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