Thursday, November 12, 2009

Academic plagiarism addressed in "Dear Abby" style

An inquiry to Lily Garcia (published at the Washington Post) begins:

I have a good friend who is a tenured faculty member at a state university. A junior faculty member in their department gave a presentation at a national conference that was plagiarized. My friend was a witness to the plagiarized presentation and brought this to the attention of the department head and to the dean. Both told the witness to say nothing to no one and implied there would be consequences if the witness informed anyone else. The junior faculty member is up for tenure.

The information provided did not explain "how" the junior faculty member recognized the plagiarism: was the material copied from PUBLISHED material, or STOLEN from unpublished material? If the former, one might well ask how others in attendance at a national conference would not ALSO recognize plagiarized material.

Garcia does not delve into matters such as "grammatical" plagiarism or "inadvertent" plagiarism in seeking the origins of the copying:

If your friend is mainly concerned about preventing an unworthy junior faculty member from getting tenure, then he should report the plagiarism to the tenure committee. Before making the report, your friend could confront the junior faculty member who plagiarized the presentation and allow him the opportunity to voluntarily come before the tenure committee to explain what happened. The junior faculty member could then save face and present any mitigating factors that should be taken into consideration rather than being exposed as a fraud. I cannot think of any convincing excuses for plagiarism, but I can imagine that this junior faculty member may be a fundamentally ethical person who, under tremendous pressure to make a good impression, had a very serious lapse in judgment.

The gist of Garcia's article relates to the suppression of plagiarism issues as to professors. As long ago noted by the Harvard Crimson, the matter gets flipped as to plagiarism issues of students. People like Alison Routman at Semester at Sea are made to walk the plank for the flimsiest of reasons. Go figure.

See also

Plagiarism is plagiarism!
[about issues at the University of Virginia]

**A discussion about student plagiarism at Oklahoma ends with the lines:

As it is now, the process works like a legal proceeding with the professor being the accuser and the student playing the part of defendant. It's good that students learn the boundaries early on. After they leave college, there are no slaps on the wrist or do-overs.

IPBiz notes that, as indicated in the above "Dear Abby" style letter, plagiarism in the professorial academic community is marked by cover-ups, and, if totally snagged, "do-overs."


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