Saturday, September 09, 2006

Plagiarism issue over speech by Stanford's George Shultz

In an article concerning a speech by George Schultz, author Lisa M. Krieger re-visited many plagiarism issues from the past.

The article began:

When Stanford University economics professor and Hoover Institution fellow George P. Shultz delivered his prestigious Kissinger Lecture at the Library of Congress, he used entire paragraphs that had been previously published in a Yale University journal.

She continued:

On the Stanford University campus, though, some students and scholars contend that the lecture violated one of the sacred canons of academia: Never use someone else's words without citing the source. Wasn't this plagiarism? And if not, students say, then isn't it a double-standard -- why can senior professors, but not students, use unnamed contributors to write their work?

One notes that the "double standard" issue appeared prominently in the pages of the Harvard Crimson when Professor Laurence Tribe "got away" with actions which would have proved disastrous for a Harvard undergrad. Some students at Harvard set up a blog about the Tribe matter. Lawrence Velvel wrote about the matter repeatedly.

The text from the Yale journal was written by Charles Hill. The article noted "[Hill] defended the Kissinger Lecture, saying there is a longstanding tradition of politicians using writers -- and that academia's rigid standards do not apply to that forum. He said he had permission to use the material from the Yale Israel Journal and did not violate copyright laws." IPBiz notes two things. First, the argument of "longstanding tradition" is just like the "different culture" defense of Dershowitz made on behalf of Tribe. Republicans say "tradition;" Democrats say "culture." Second, plagiarism and copyright are two different things. One can plagiarize Shakespeare while committing no copyright violation.

Here's the punch-line in the Krieger article:

Increasingly, politicians rarely write their own speeches. Business executives depend on the literary skills of corporate committees. Judicial opinions are written by lowly law clerks, not judges. Big-name comedians rarely write all their own material. In scientific research, lab directors add their names to published papers -- even though they may not have written a word or collected a single sample.

That is, Krieger is saying in the real-world everybody does it. Of course, students in the mechanical engineering department at Ohio University better not. Although not mentioning the Ohio University matter, Krieger did write:

But in the academic community, plagiarism remains a serious sin.

Stanford's Board of Judicial Affairs defines plagiarism as ``the use, without giving reasonable and appropriate credit to or acknowledging the author or source, of another person's original work, whether such work is made up of code, formulas, ideas, language, research, strategies, writing or other form(s).''

It can result in a failed paper, failed class or suspension.

Even accidental or inadvertent use of another person's work is considered a violation. ``Most people, listening to a lecture, would expect that the lecturer wrote everything -- and if other material is used, it is at least paraphrased,'' said Stanford senior Chris Nguyen, a political science major. ``If you come to hear an expert, you want to hear the expert's ideas, not the ideas of Bob-Down-The-Street.

``If a student gave a class presentation and the professor discovered that material was taken from another source, without citing, they could fail the assignment -- or even be forced to go before the Honor Code for not meeting the Fundamental Standard,'' he said.

Krieger got into ghost-writing:

In part, the issue arises when think tanks are affiliated with universities. ``Ghostwriting is kosher in politics, but not in academia,'' said Nate Gillespie, a graduate student in Stanford's Department of History. ``I'm less than shocked to discover that this practice doesn't end when the secretary moves from Foggy Bottom to Hoover Tower.''

Ghost-writing was an issue in the Laurence Tribe matter, although never fully developed. [Ironically, it may have been a ghost-writer, not Tribe, who committed the plagiarism of the the University of Virginia professor's work.]

Krieger presents an interesting quote: "In every university in America, of every lecture that is heard, 80 percent is drawn from something else, without attribution," Hill said.

In a development on September 8, 2006, there are new plagiarism issues at Southern Illinois University.

The AP reported:

New allegations of plagiarism are swirling around Southern Illinois University's campus in Carbondale.

University President Glenn Poshard today tapped a three-person panel to scrutinize similarities between the school's long-range plan and that of a Texas school where SIU's chancellor once worked.

This issue potentially implicates intellectual property concerns: taking work done on behalf of a previous employer and using that work for a later employer.

The previous allegations of plagiarism at SIU included a speech given by an SIU administrator on Martin Luther King Day. Ironically, the thesis of Martin Luther King at Boston University has been found to have been plagiarized in large part from a previous thesis at BU, the incident exposed by workers at Stanford University. Krieger didn't mention that. Krieger also didn't mention how BU handled this purely academic issue, which might inform her statement: in the academic community, plagiarism remains a serious sin.


Blogger Lawrence B. Ebert said...

Charlotte Martin wrote in the Yale Daily on Sept. 12, 2006:

While he [Hill] and Shultz later corresponded about the latter's upcoming Library of Congress Lecture, Hill said, he found a copy of the paper he had written and recommended that Schultz take a look at it, forgetting that the paper had been published. [IPBiz note: the plagiarism issue exists whether or not the paper was published. Hill's comment is off point.]

"[Shultz] got blindsided and it was my fault because I just didn't recall any of this," Hill said. "I guess it's plagiarism in reverse. I guess I plagiarized something in reverse by using my own thing and gave him something he had contributed to without knowing it, so the whole thing is kind of upside down." [IPBiz: does anyone understand this? Hill gave Shultz a paper and Shultz used 22 or so sentences from the paper in his speech.]

But Hill said that while the overlap was an oversight he should not have made, he was simply fulfilling the role of speechwriter, in a public lecture, which he said does not follow the same strict rules as an academic article. [IPBiz note: typically, one doesn't give footnotes in a speech, but typically one doesn't take the text from other people, especially when such text is already published. The idea of "different rules" is ironically similar to the argument of Dershowitz defending Tribe ("different culture"). The Tribe incident involved the use of another person's written work in a written work by Tribe, so it was different from a speech.]

The 2006-'07 Yale Undergraduate Regulations define plagiarism as "the use of someone else's work, words, or ideas as if they were your own." But plagiarism, though strictly penalized at most universities, can be difficult to define, said Matthew Smith, a professor of philosophy who teaches courses on ethics.

"Our thoughts, our beliefs, and most notably our expression of these things are a combination of what we've heard, what we've read and what we've come up with on our own," Smith said. "To say that, especially when we are making speeches, we should footnote everything would mean we would have to footnote everything."

7:24 AM  

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