Thursday, February 21, 2008

Drunken lemurs?

The Feb. 20 "Dilbert" comic strip is derived from the actual story of an Iowa man fired last year for posting a "Dilbert" strip at the office implying his bosses were "drunken lemurs." The current variant included:

Do you think drunken lemurs are like managers?"

Wally replies: "No. Some lemurs can hold their liquor."


Note that Ohio University stripped Jay Gunasekera (former mechanical engineering chairman) of his distinguished professorship in February following an investigation into his role in a plagiarism problem. Part of a story from the Athens Post sounded like a re-make of the Poshard Problem at SIU: According to several distinguished professors who attended the November meeting, Gunasekera said he was not familiar with American academic standards when his book was published in 1989. Before Ohio, Gunasekera taught in Australia and Sri Lanka (but not in Madagascar, home of lemurs).

The Ohio Post wrote: In the book’s introduction, Gunasekera thanks Mehta for his “valuable contributions to the material in this work.”“The text was virtually identical to the source from which it was taken,” said Gar Rothwell, distinguished professor of environmental and plant biology. “One does not use the work of others without giving credit for it.” One can only wonder what Professor Rothwell would think of page 54 of Poshard's Ph.D. thesis.

On 22 February 2008, the Athens Post noted Gunasekara emailed the Post, challenging the story of Feb. 21. Text included:

“The Post states that I copied portions of a student’s thesis, specifically a narrative describing the software known as STREAM,” Gunasekera wrote. “Such statements are entirely false.”

The explanation offered might seem to implicate self-plagiarism as to Gunasekera and plagiarism as to Mehta:

In his e-mail, Gunasekera wrote that the words in his 1989 book and in Mehta’s thesis come from a user manual Gunasekera wrote in 1983 for his STREAM software. Gunasekera and his lawyer could not be reached for comment or for clarification of the nature of the STREAM software.


On 25 Feb. 08, the Athens Post retracted its story about Gunasekera in a piece titled: ‘Post’ apologizes for distinguished professor story; Gunasekera did not copy from student’s thesis:

We deeply regret and sincerely apologize for any damage we might have caused Gunasekera’s reputation. Accordingly, we’ve removed all references to his book and Mehta’s thesis from our Web site. We’ve also posted this as a formal apology to Gunasekera. Although the fact that he was removed as a distinguished professor for other reasons is still true, it is not true that he copied a student’s work.

The Post also backed off on accusations against Mehta: And that’s not to say Mehta is at fault here. His thesis does cite Gunasekera, and as Gittes pointed out, the two worked together closely and often traded research materials.

See also

and from authorskeptics -->

"[W]hat I did 20 years ago was a significant lapse in proper academic practice . . . ."
PROFESSOR LAURENCE TRIBE, official statement on his book, God Save This Honorable Court, 4/13/05

InsideHigherEd wrote: Harvard University found that Lawrence H. Tribe committed a “serious lapse” by failing to credit the work of another scholar in a book Tribe, a law professor, wrote 20 years ago, the Associated Press reported. But the inquiry also found that Tribe’s error was not intentional.

See also

Distinguished no longer

***Note the New Jersey connection in How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life: Plagiarist Kaavya Viswanathan attended Bergen County Academies, a public magnet high school in Hackensack, New Jersey. So, do Harvard and New Jersey share credit for this example of plagiarism?


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