Saturday, January 12, 2008

How Ohio U. dealt with the plagiarized theses

Of the Ohio University plagiarism business, Tom Matrka provided some comments, and more
importantly, provided some information previously not seen
by IPBiz -->

I am not an academic expert, but I think that the idea of “intent”
should be irrelevant in most of the cases of plagiarism I have
discovered and reported to Ohio University officials. How can a student not
intend to plagiarize when he/she copies page after page from a textbook
or journal article and then submits it to a thesis/dissertation
committee? I think many students before me knew that plagiarism was accepted,
and therefore, they were not concerned about it. Now one can ask, is
there intent if everyone does it and it is accepted regularly? I think
this is why Ohio University is trying to help the cheaters; the
professors were not enforcing the rules.

The commitment to help the cheaters is even more evident if you look at
a few of the recently accepted and republished re-writes. Ohio
University is not requiring the students to re-write plagiarized sections;
they are simply deleting them. In the most recent case they republished
a thesis that now has no Chapter 2 or 3. From the link below, please
download the published Ohio University student thesis and note that
Chapter 1 is followed by Chapter 4 (i.e. pages 3-36 are missing from the

I think OU did this in response to my discovery of plagiarism in a
recently accepted re-write. In this case, the student deleted almost an
entire chapter, but he did not delete all of his plagiarism. I ask that
you please see for yourself. Pages 9-11 of the 2007 re-write available

are copied from pages 9-11 of the 1991 thesis available at:

First, IPBiz agrees with Tom Matrka (and disagrees completely with Patrick
Scanlon of RIT) on the issue of "intent." Plagiarism is copying without attribution.
Intent is not an element of the "crime." As Matrka suggests the copying itself can
be inferred from the substantial similarity between the copied and original works.
Does one need to inquire about "intent" when the copying is self-evident?

In the realm of copyright infringement (which is NOT the same as plagiarism), one recalls
the George Harrison case. One doubts that George set out to copy "He's so fine," but he was
an infringer. Wikipedia notes: In the U.S. federal court decision in the case, known as Bright Tunes Music v. Harrisongs Music, Harrison was found to have unintentionally copied the earlier song. He was ordered to surrender the majority of royalties from "My Sweet Lord" and partial royalties from All Things Must Pass. An issue in copyright infringement is access to the copied work (and sometimes access can be inferred), but one does not contemplate intent. Copying is copying.

Second, IPBiz notes that the folks at Ohio University are fighting over things
that were largely ignored at Southern Illinois University [SIU] in the Poshard matter.
What Poshard did on page 54 of his Ph.D. thesis is likely worse than anything the
Ohio University students did. Poshard argued that there were no rules on plagiarism
at the time of his thesis. While that argument is hard to believe, it would seem that the
folks at SIU accepted the argument. Nobody at Ohio U. seems to be saying such a thing.
However, what if there are rules that no one enforces? What if the
people reading the theses can't even recognize copying? [Or what if the copying was considered
general knowledge, as in Abraham Lincoln copying from the Bible in his "House Divided" speech?]

Third, the Ohio U., SIU, and Merrill (U Missouri) matters all illustrate that the general
populace in 2008 is divided over what constitutes plagiarism. While IPBiz thinks plagiarism is
a bad thing, it is evident that academics, including those at Harvard, don't really think it is
a bad thing. Professors at Harvard Law School have admitted plagiarizing, and the Harvard Business Review
had an article with a sub-heading "Plagiarize with Pride."

Fourth, while recognizing that plagiarism is bad, IPBiz continues to note that publishing
false statements (e.g., Stanford Law Review saying Gary Boone invented the integrated circuit) is a
far worse thing. Confusion of source of a true statement is less damaging to society than
confusion of truth itself.

See also

A separate reader inquired about the Argosy plagiarism matter, discussed for example in the Chicago Sun-Times (-->Argosy plagiarism was 'unintentional'). IPBiz already commented upon this, noting the great disservice that the folks at SIU have done in promoting the concept of "unintentional plagiarism," which seems to be expanding like the plague.

UPDATE from Athens Messenger -->

John Burns, who retired Jan. 1 as OU's director of legal affairs, testified Thursday in the defamation lawsuit that former engineering professor Bhavin Mehta filed in the Ohio Court of Claims against the university. Testimony in the first phase of the trial ended Thursday, but a verdict won't be known for a couple months.

Mehta was told in March 2006 that his job teaching mechanical engineering at OU would be over after August 2007 due to budget constraints. In May 2006, two months after Mehta was informed his contract was being "non-renewed," the university released a report on the accusations of plagiarism in the engineering department. Mehta and another professor, although not mentioned by name, were identified in the report and singled out for blame because they had advised many of the students alleged to have plagiarized theses.

Mehta did not have tenure, but had been teaching at OU for nearly 20 years. The university maintains that his termination was for budget reasons and had nothing to do with the plagiarism accusations. Mehta sued OU for defamation, and his four-day trial ended Thursday.

Attorney-client privilege was waived so that Burns could testify on the university's behalf. The Ohio Attorney General's Office represented OU in the case, and attorneys Randall Knutti and Daniel Forsythe called Burns as a witness to explain the legal process of how the students accused of plagiarism were disciplined and adjudicated.


Blogger Unknown said...

Have u try the online bookstore Cocomartini

I get all my textbooks for this semester from this bookstore. All are brand new and half price discount.

Good luck and wish some help.

hehe ^_^

7:16 AM  
Blogger meg said...

1:29 PM  

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