Adopting the recently contrived sophistry of “unintentional plagiarism” will absolve University of Virginia students of their responsibility to know what plagiarism is and to not do it. As more schools decide to avoid having to deal with plagiarism by simply redefining it away, it will join grade inflation (now at virtually all schools) and the abandonment of the SAT (by some schools) in the growing list of destroyed hallmarks and measures of academic integrity and merit. If this is the sort of ruse the University of Virginia wants to employ to avoid dealing with its plagiarists, so be it. But it will be like declawing a cat in that the university will have nothing much left to defend itself against plagiarism, e.g., it will (intentionally) be much too easy to just routinely dismiss the first offence as unintended. The bad precedent establishing unintentional plagiarism was set by Southern Illinois University to justify retaining their plagiarist president, Glenn Poshard. He plagiarized his doctoral dissertation, which was so outrageous that the only way to justify what he did and thus avoid the mess of having to deal with him was to invent an excuse (inadvertent/unintended plagiarism) for it and thereby foolishly forfeit the traditional taboo against plagiarism. With this clever maneuver, common sense was thrown out the window all too willingly by those greatly relieved by not having to do what should have been done (fire him). Worst of all, there was too little public outcry to prevent this watershed accommodation of plagiarism from happening. The Poshard affair was not a freak, “unintended” accident. Increased leniency will encourage more cheaters to abuse it and plagiarism will spread like a cancer, even into graduate school. Don’t believe it? Just look at what has been happening at Ohio University. Plagiarism is not against the law but it is theft, nevertheless. And as such, accommodating it is about as close to condoning criminal activity as higher education can get. In some ways, the now decades-long implosion of the academic integrity of American higher education (e.g., the accommodation of grade inflation and now plagiarism, even in graduate school) reminds me of our current national economic calamity; with “subprime universities” seemingly having become the norm, nowadays. And I wonder how much more of this kind of decay the country can sustain. Southern Illinois President Cleared of Plagiarism http://www.insidehighereducation.com/news/2007/10/12/siu Ohio University Plagiarism http://ohiouniversityplagiarism.blogspot.com/
Plagiarism is plagiarism!
IPBiz notes that only parts of Poshard's thesis were plagiarized (eg, page 54) but that the "original" part was simply unimaginative, rather than plagiarized.