Thursday, April 23, 2009

Plagiarism in the academy

Fairweather concluded that faculty and administration must deal with the enormous emphasis placed on research and the rewards tied to it before achieving a re-emphasis on teaching.

Fairweather concluded that faculty and administrators must deal with the enormous emphasis placed on research and rewards tied to it before achieving a reemphasis on teaching.
The Associated Press reports that another college president has been accused of plagiarism in a dissertation. William Meehan, president of Alabama's Jacksonville State University, earlier ran into difficulties when newspaper columns published under his name turned out to have been plagiarized by the ghostwriter who assembled the columns.

Neither Jacksonville State University nor the University of Alabama (which granted Meehan his Ed.D.) is preparing to look into the dissertation. Or at least not yet.

The quoted passages above, from dissertations by Carl Boening and Meehan, appear in the AP article. Both dissertations were submitted to the University of Alabama, three years apart.

"[A]chieving a re-emphasis": it's remarkable that anyone would plagiarize that ungainly phrase.

Update: JSU Public Relations Director Patty Hobbs has issued a press release that includes this passage:
These claims have been investigated not only by the university, but by third parties and the university is completely satisfied that there is no substance to the allegations. President Meehan has been clear from the beginning that he used Mr. Boening’s dissertation as a spring board for his own, and Meehan’s dissertation duly credits his predecessor’s work.
This explanation is less than persuasive. The AP article cited above notes that Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today examined the dissertations and "concluded that 'extensive portions' of Meehan's dissertation were plagiarism of Boening's work." In other words, the third-party investigation supports, not discredits, the allegation of plagiarism.

"Spring board" is an interesting metaphor. But one can acknowledge a source while plagiarizing from it. If I say that I'm indebted to your work while borrowing its words and ideas without attribution, I've plagiarized your work.

Related posts
"Local Norms" and "'organic' attribution"
"Plagiarism free"

comments: 2

T. said...

There was a recent NPR feature on Talk of the Nation about essay mills on the discouraging...(

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, outsourcing one's schoolwork and moving us closer to one ideal: an exchange of cash for credit hours, with no learning getting in the way.