Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Plagiarism in academic contexts: a look at the past

In a case (274 F. Supp. 2d 71) alleging certain discriminatory motives in a charge, and finding, of plagiarism in a CHEMISTRY paper [IPBiz: !!], one has the following text:

Chandamuri states that Dr. Roepe reported him for plagiarism because, in his paper, he did not place direct passages of previously-published articles within
quotation marks. Chandamuri alleges that Dr. Roepe's definition of plagiarism is
not supported by the Honor Council materials on the basis that Chandamuri cited
the authors upon whose work he relied and therefore did not intend to pass off
the work of others as his own. Chandamuri maintains that his actions do
not meet Georgetown's definition of plagiarism and alleges that the Honor
Council hearing was severely flawed because the Honor Council never defined plagiarism for the purpose of the hearing or established the procedures by which the
hearing was to be run.

[The Honor Code] defines plagiarism as "the act of passing off as one's own ideas the writing of another. (...) The Honor Council conducted the investigation and
hearing, and decided, based on its published definition, that Chandamuri had
committed plagiarism.

Yes, coincidental to the issues with the Chemistry Department at Columbia (Sezen Sames matter), one has a recent Columbia case related to plagiarism, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26480. Some text:

Plaintiff submitted a report to his instructor for the class Music
Humanities. Based on a comparison to a website showing substantial
similarities, the instructor notified the Dean of Students, who then notified Mr.
Shelton on December 16, 2002, that he had been accused of academic dishonesty.

The Subcommittee found Plaintiff guilty of plagiarism and recommended Plaintiff's
dismissal from the University. The decision was affirmed by the full Committee.

The University disciplinary policy is outlined in the University Bulletin and provides that acts of plagiarism are punishable by "suspension or dismissal from the School."

[There is a reference to a case involving New York Law School]: "Strong policy considerations militate against the intervention of courts in controversies relating to an educational institution's judgment of a student's academic performance." Susan M. V. New York Law School, 76 N.Y.2d 241, 245, 556 N.E.2d 1104, 557 N.Y.S.2d 297 (N.Y. 1990).

In a different and more recent case (2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58346), one has the text:

Plaintiff was conditionally admitted into the University of Houston Doctoral Degree Program in the Department of English to pursue a Doctorate of Philosophy in English Literature.

Dr. Maria Gonzalez, a professor in the English Department at the University of Houston, accused plaintiff of plagiarism. (...) plaintiff was again accused of plagiarism, this time by Dr. Voskuil.

In the more distant past, there was a certain case at Princeton University, 186 N.J. Super. 548; 453 A.2d 263:

plaintiff was a student in her senior year at Princeton University, a member of the Class of 1982. During the Fall Term of the 1981-1982 academic year Professor Molloy
taught Spanish 341, a course entitled "The Spanish American Novel."
Plaintiff elected to become a student in that course. It was her submission of a
term paper for that course which gave rise to the disciplinary proceedings
here under review.

[Princeton had a Committee on Discipline (COD) for] academic violations, such as plagiarism on essays, term papers or laboratory reports [IPBiz: !!],

[The text of the case had some lengthy definitions]:

General Requirements for the Acknowledgment of Sources in Academic

The academic departments of the University have varying
requirements for the acknowledgment of sources, but certain
fundamental principles apply to all levels of work. In order to prevent any
misunderstanding, students are expected to study and
comply with the following basic requirements.

Quotations. Any quotations, however small, must be placed in
quotation marks or clearly indented beyond the regular margin.
quotation must be accompanied (either within the text or in a
footnote) by a precise indication of the source -- identifying the
author, title, place and date of publication (where relevant), and
page numbers. Any sentence or phrase which is not the original
work of the student must be acknowledged.

Paraphrasing. Any material which is paraphrased or summarized
also be specifically acknowledged in a footnote or in the text. A
thorough rewording or rearrangement of an author's text does not
relieve one of this responsibility.
Occasionally, students
maintain that they have read a source long before they wrote their papers
and have unwittingly duplicated some of its phrases or ideas. This is
not a valid excuse.
The student is responsible for taking adequate
notes so that debts of phrasing may be acknowledged where they are due.

Ideas and Facts. Any ideas or facts which are borrowed should
be specifically acknowledged in a footnote or in the text,
even if the idea or fact has been further elaborated by the student.
Some ideas, facts, formulae, and other kinds of information which are
widely known and considered to be in the "public domain" of common
knowledge do not always require citation. The criteria for common
knowledge vary among disciplines; students in doubt should consult
a member of the faculty.

Occasionally, a student in preparing an essay has consulted an
essay or body of notes on a similar subject by another student.
If the student has done so, he or she must state the fact and
indicate clearly the nature and extent of his or her obligation.
The name
and class of the author of an essay or notes which are consulted
should be given, and the student should be prepared to show the work
consulted to the instructor, if requested to do so.

Footnotes and Bibliography. All the sources which have been
consulted in the preparation of an essay or report should be
listed in a bibliography, unless specific guidelines (from the academic
department or instructor) request that only works cited be so
included. However, the mere listing of a source in a bibliography
shall not be considered a "proper acknowledgement" for
specific use of that source within the essay or report.

Plagiarism. The deliberate use of any outside source without
proper acknowledgment. "Outside source" means any work, published
or unpublished, by any person other than the student.


Plaintiff told Professor Molloy that she wanted to write her paper
on the family ties in a novel entitled Cien anos de soledad [*556] (100
Years of Solitude) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Professor Molloy approved the
topic and told plaintiff that she ought to read Cien anos de soledad:
una interpretacion by Josefina Ludmer (Ludmer), a book which Professor
Molloy had put on library reserve at the beginning of the Fall Semester.

A simple comparison of plaintiff's paper and Ludmer reveals numerous
sections of the paper which are taken verbatim, or in other portions
virtually verbatim, from Ludmer, but which are not put into quotation marks or
indented and which are not footnoted. At the end of her paper plaintiff wrote
and signed the acknowledgment of originality required by RRR, in Spanish: "This
paper represents my own work in accordance with University regulations."


After hearing oral argument the trial judge decided to remand the
matter for a rehearing at Princeton. He found that a conviction for the academic
fraud offense of plagiarism must be based upon a finding of "intent to pass
off the submitted work as the student's own."

It is clear that plaintiff was charged with plagiarism -- in other words,
that plaintiff attempted to pass off as her own work, the work of another.
That act, if proven, constituted academic fraud. We do not view this case as
involving an appeal from a finding of general misconduct; instead, we are concerned
with the application of academic standards by the authorities at Princeton.

IPBiz notes that some of the above illustrates that there is precedent in previous academic disciplinary actions for what has happened in the matter at Ohio University in the mechanical engineering master theses matter. HOWEVER, that said, some of the defenses raised in, for example, the Coulter plagiarism matter, do not square with, for example, the policy noted above for Princeton University. It does seem that there are differences in what is expected of students and what is expected of adults working in the real world, as was pointed out in the Laurence Tribe matter by, for example, the Harvard Crimson.

**IPBiz update**

Although the factor which motivated the Chandamori case was a charge of plagiarism, the issues that Chandamori brought to court were charges of retaliation. Universities have to be aware of the issue.

In a brief in Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education, the Solicitor General wrote:

Finally, the question whether Title IX authorizes a private right of action for retaliation is one of recurring importance. That issue and the related issue whether Title VI authorizes a private right of action for retaliation have arisen with increasing frequency in the lower courts. See Burch v. Board of Regents of University of California, No. Civ. 8-04-0038 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 16, 2004); Atkinson v. Lafayette Coll., No. 01-CV-2141, 2003 WL 21956416 (E.D. Pa. July 24, 2003), appeal pending, No. 03-3426 (3d Cir.); Chandamuri v. Georgetown Univ., 274 F. Supp. 2d 71 (D.D.C. 2003); Mock v. South Dakota Bd. of Regents, 267 F. Supp. 2d 1017 (D.S.D. 2003); Johnson v. Galen Health Insts., Inc., 267 F. Supp. 2d 679 (W.D. Ky. 2003).

The question in Jackson was Whether the private right of action for violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. 1681 et seq., encompasses redress for retaliation for complaints about unlawful sex discrimination.


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