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Plagiarism in Academia (A Picture Worth a Thousand Words)

Lisa Hendrix sent this Boing Boing link to us displaying highlighted passages of word for word verbatim copying by President of Jacksonville State University, William Meehan, in his dissertation.

As another recent story suggests, plagiarism seems to be governed by a sliding scale, with consequences lessening as the wrongdoer’s status rises.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Lusty Reader
    Jun 02, 2009 @ 11:03:23

    How is Carl Boening not super pissed?

    Also, can someone please write an erotica Hero with the name Boening?

  2. SonomaLass
    Jun 02, 2009 @ 11:31:58

    Makes. Me. Very. Angry.

  3. azteclady
    Jun 02, 2009 @ 13:57:40

    Holy crap.

    The catty snarky mean girl in me is wondering if someone is going to accuse the people who did the highlighting of having a grudge against poor Meehan, or wondering if Meehan ran over their dogs…

    … because we all know that if *that* is the case, then it’s not plagiarism, right?

  4. Karen Scott
    Jun 02, 2009 @ 14:35:59

    Also, can someone please write an erotica Hero with the name Boening?

    Sorry, I have nothing sensible to add, it’s just that this comment made me laugh.

  5. Meljean
    Jun 02, 2009 @ 17:05:10

    I read that at least three professors sat for both dissertations. I’m guessing that is keeping one school very quiet, because it calls the PhD program into question. How could they not recognize the plagiarized work, or at least question the similarity…unless they didn’t really read them before they issued a diploma?

    I can see (don’t agree) but I see why they might be quiet on the issue — this has to be a huge embarrassment for both schools (and embarrassment usually = circle the wagons and keep quiet). And although they aren’t saying it is plagiarism, I do wonder if Meehan will be looking for a new position in the near future.

    It sends a terribly wrong message, though. I can’t help but wonder how many students are now going to use these dissertations as a defense when they are caught plagiarizing.

    Also, how stupid do you have to be to copy a dissertation from someone who went to the same school? That’d be like me copying Nalini Singh, and thinking none of her readers would notice.

    Oh, right.

  6. Sunita
    Jun 02, 2009 @ 19:02:40

    Oh great, another one. There are a number of cases in the last few years where Presidents and Provosts of universities have been caught plagiarizing. Usually speeches and articles, but this isn’t the first dissertation.

    As for the overlapping dissertation committees, yes, they *should* have caught the similarities. But that would require reading, remembering, and thinking. Not that I’m jaded, or anything.

  7. Maya M.
    Jun 03, 2009 @ 15:03:42

    Are journalists not hounding the university in question to force a response? How can the school possibly not react at all?

    Back in the day when I was a first year student, in the very first class the politicial science professor handed out the university policy on plagiarism which included expulsion as a certain consequence in case of repeat offence or, IIRC, if first offence was egregious enough. The idea being that no student would be able to claim after the fact that they ‘did not know’ plagiarism was a serious transgression.

    I thought this was standard practice at universities everywhere. Guess not.

  8. SonomaLass
    Jun 03, 2009 @ 15:47:02

    As I understand it, Meehan freely admits to using Boening’s research model. His point, apparently, was to replicate Boening’s methodology (the study of faculty sabbatical leave at U of Alabama) at another university and compare the results. So, no original thought needed!

    The whole thing makes me sick. I work very hard to teach my students the difference between research and plagiarism, as well as to teach them that the distinction matters. I am glad I’m not trying to teach those lessons at either of these two universities!

  9. Jet
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 20:20:12

    Since I was in high school I’ve seen a huge crack down on plagarism in the educational feild. Several, meaning maybe and estimated 10 out of 25, of the senior class in AP English at Greenway High School in 2006 were accused and, in many cases, punished for blatant plagarism. As a student who watched my classmates plagarize to turn in assignmnts on time in order to ‘get good grades’ I have to admit a little peice of me did a happy dance when they were punished a year later for it… No one was expelled and the incident was hush hush even within the school.

    At SU I know that there have been huge emails snt out time after time warning students about plagarism, and missed citation. Its a huge deal. As it is in several departments the facutly use one to three different plagarism check sites. I can only imagine that this will cause further developements. The funny thing is that even i you write a 100% original peice with zero sources and reading, most of these sites admit that you can still get up to a 30% plagarism rating on their checks. It’s sort of sad and funny at the same time. I know everytime one of my classes writes a paper there is always a grup of students scared out of their mind and overciting for the sake of it.

    The question is when to introduce into education the ideas of legality? For me it wasn’t really until the sixth grade that we had to write a ‘bibliography’ of what we used to write papers. But the issue never really struck home until I watched classmates fail courses over practices that simply hadn’t been questioned. Personally, I wasn’t one of those people. I don’t trust anyone else interpretation of a book other than my own, and certainly not something from or spark notes. When teachers allow this beavior for three or four years, and then slap students on the wrist for doing it repeatedly over those four years, I can’t help but wonder what the message is. Don’t get caught?

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