Can UD be the only person for whom plagiarists and their defenders have a distinct charm?

A sweet disorder in the prose
Kindles in me oohs and ohs:—
A plagiarism has me thrown
Into a fine distractión,—
An erring line, which here and there
Enthrals the happy reader fair —
A quote neglectful, and thereby
Prose that flows confusedly,—
A shocking theft, deserving note,
From something that was ‘fore that wrote —
A careless word-string, in whose sense
I see fantastic fraudulence,—
Do more bewitch me, than when prose
Is too precise in every pose.


Can UD be the only person who thrills to tales like these?

An elected member of the Nevada Board of Regents is amending his 1995 University of Nevada, Reno dissertation following the discovery that more than four pages of it were copied from an uncited California report.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in late August that Regent Jason Geddes, who has defended the Nevada System of Higher Education against allegations it plagiarized a think tank’s report, had copied material in his own academic work.

Geddes has a doctorate in environmental sciences and health and has been a member of the Board of Regents since 2006.

Geddes’ adviser Glenn Miller was adamant Geddes did not plagiarize — despite pages of paragraphs being copied exactly, with the exception of an occasional word change and conversions to the metric system. Miller said it wasn’t plagiarism because dissertations aren’t widely read, the copied work was accurate and the copied language wasn’t creative …

Breathes there the soul which aren’t widely read fails to quicken? The copied work was accurately copied! The copied work was not creative! Please tell UD she’s not the only person bewitched not merely by plagiarism, but by (recalling this classic) excuses for it!

Yet for all the delight one takes in the defenders, there is nothing like the audacious copyists themselves. Recall, merely among professors, the selfsame University of Nevada’s Mustapha Marrouchi, who had apparently been plagiarizing (from hundreds of sources) for decades. Think, more recently, of Arizona State’s Matthew Whitaker, whose “resignation” will cost that university hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But if you ask UD, hundreds of thousands of dollars is a bargain. These guys and their shenanigans (note what Whitaker’s got going on with the City of Phoenix) might be fun for UD to follow, but when you get down to it, they’re really embarrassing.

Return to …


It sounds like a Christo work…

… but apparently Korean academia’s project to re-wrap hundreds of book covers is a homegrown effort.

[200 Korean] professors, mostly in science and engineering majors, are accused of publishing others’ works under their own names by simply changing the book covers to boost their academic profiles ahead of assessments for rehiring.

UD‘s always complaining about how boringly uniform the act of plagiarism is, but HEY. New one on me.

Yet is it even right to call this innovation plagiarism? Plagiarism involves at least glancing contact with, and often manipulation of, the writing of other people. In this scheme, carried out with the full cooperation of publishers, and in many cases with the original authors’ cooperation (publishers got to re-market “new” books; authors allegedly got kickbacks), you simply supply your name to the publisher, who redesigns the cover with you listed as the author. This looks more like the decorative arts.


Plenty of scope here for puns in any case. Korean publishers offer non-binding contracts… Psychoanalytic volumes? Shrink-wrapped… The wit of Seoul is brevity…

A Rector Set

21% of Russia’s university leaders submitted plagiarized dissertations.

It’s not the plagiarism. It’s the excuses for the plagiarism.

This Russki says it ain’t plagiarism; it’s unscrupulous borrowing.

Explaining via Facebook in April the unattributed matches in his thesis with works of other authors, [former Duma Speaker Vladimir] Platonov used [a] euphemism, “unscrupulous borrowing,” that, he said, is not plagiarism.

This Georgian says it’s unverified content acceptance.

[Augusta Georgia Mayor Hardie] Davis admitted to accepting “content and feedback from multiple outside contributors without verifying the source of the information they provided.” Davis’ continued in the statement that he used the information from the feedback without citing who wrote the information. “I did not willfully or knowingly use someone else’s professional work as my own.”

This Italian says it’s nonfiction fiction:

[Roberto Saviano calls himself] a “non-fiction novelist,” in the tradition of Truman Capote, dealing in absolute truth but leavened with literary flourish.

Medieval Copyist

Peru’s leading newspaper said it will no longer publish editorials by the cardinal and archbishop of Lima after accusing him of plagiarizing past popes in his articles.

… Juan Luis Cipriani … copied portions of the book “Communio,” written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict XVI, and of the encyclical “Ecclesiam Suam,” written by Pope Paul VI in two of his editorials.

… He suggested to listeners of his radio program, “Dialogues of Faith,” that the newspaper’s response was “revenge” for his inflexible opposition to abortion and gay marriage…

Cloud Gategate.

Just wanted to grab that clever headline before anyone else thought of it.

Plagiarize, Prevaricate, Rinse, Repeat

Plagiarism stories, says UD (who has followed them for years), are dully redundant. They’re not even stories in most of the world, by which I mean that if you’re in Korea or Pakistan or many other countries, plagiarism in the arts and sciences is rampant. Rampant. Americans get shocked when Americans plagiarize, and it does seem much rarer here… Though even here there are entire fields of endeavor (commencement speeches; sermons) full of plagiarists.

What makes plagiarism stories even duller is their uniform plot line. Someone discovers you’ve plagiarized. You deny, deny, deny, deny. The very idea! You are outraged. You make lawsuit noises. You know what it’s like to be unjustly accused of plagiarism, because it’s happened to you before. It happens because you are a popular, controversial figure, and other people are jealous and seek to undermine you. Who are you supposed to have plagiarized? That guy?? You’ve never read a word of his work!

Other people now look at the evidence, which makes it obvious that you have indeed plagiarized, and which also makes it impossible for you to continue to pretend that it’s just about this one liar trying to damage your reputation.

The next step is, again, virtually unchanged from case to case. Never admit to having consciously taken language from someone else and put it in something to which you signed your own name. Never. Instead, reveal that without knowing you’re doing it, you routinely (almost all plagiarists are serial plagiarists**) identify fiction writers (let’s say you’re a fiction writer) who have already written scenes that will fit in to your own stories perfectly. No – go beyond that. If you’re Shin Kyung-sook, reveal that you unconsciously were clever enough to choose a Korean translation of a famous Japanese fiction writer and steal that. A lot of plagiarists do this sort of thing – UD calls it obscuring the source. You make sure the writer is dead. You make sure the source material was published a long, long time ago. You make sure it didn’t do too well in the marketplace. Or, like Shin Kyung-sook, you choose translated material, which makes it less likely that a reader of the original source is going to notice what you’ve done.




South Korean literature professor Hyun Tac-soo has alleged that Shin also partly plagiarised passages from German author Luise Rinser’s “The Middle of Life” in “Please Look After Mom.”

“It’s a little upsetting. You had more than enough ammo to fire him outright. He was an at will employee[;] there was no contract. There’s no reason. Unless you’re trying to hide something. There was no reason to tell him here’s a quarter of a million dollars.”

Quite the cascade of events in the Little Rock Arkansas school district, where things were so bad the state took over, and now there’s a lawsuit from the dysfunctional school board the state ousted…

And now, the Little Rock superintendent turns out to have plagiarized … maybe more than plagiarized… in some accounts, it sounds as though he virtually stole another person’s dissertation… And I guess the general consensus would be that the top official of a large educational system probably shouldn’t be a massive plagiarist who when asked about it says he doesn’t think he “consciously” plagiarized.

So he has had to resign.

But the person quoted up there in UD‘s headline – Matt Campbell, who discovered the plagiarism – is confused as to why the guy, having lied and embarrassed the state and all, got a large money award. UD thinks he’s probably right that that most benighted of American states thought it would be clever to give him money to go away and in that way make the story of their having hired a superintendent without checking the legitimacy of his credentials (it’s easy to put documents through plagiarism-finders) go away. It wasn’t very clever.


UD thanks a reader for correcting her identification of the person quoted in this post’s headline.

Stop Me Before I Plagiarize Again!

Or don’t. Hire me for your newspaper after I’ve been exposed as a serial plagiarist at another newspaper. Then publish my repellent plagiarized views.

What’s next for a lifelong plagiarist and a man who “excuse[s] male violence against women because of ‘male disempowerment'”? This is a fascinating one to watch.

You recall UD’s tripartite plagiarism scheme: Atelier, Ambition, Addicted.

(Details here.) Fareed Zakaria’s high-profile pilfering is distinctly A-One: Atelier. If UD may plagiarize herself:

Atelier is a variety made famous by busy Harvard law professors, [some of whom] appear to fob off much of the writing of their books to student assistants. Other busy Harvard people (Doris Kearns Goodwin) also seem to have gotten to P in this way. You get there not out of ambition (see #2). On the contrary, all of your ambitions have already been realized. Rather, you get there out of grandiosity. Having more than achieved your ambitions, you decide you’re too important to do your own work. Atelier is très pomo, being all about one’s transubstantiation into a simulacrum.

Michael Kinsley is the latest writer to review Zakaria’s output and conclude:

He went too far. Far too far. I would love to be able to say that Fareed is being penalized for doing what everybody does. That’s what he believes about some of these episodes, I think. But when you’re making points—one, two, three—that another writer has made, and in the exact same order, though with different exact words, you’re not just participating in a great swap meet of ideas in which nobody owns anything. You are claiming ownership of ideas that aren’t your own. That’s not a “mistake.” That’s on purpose.

Gifted Hands:

The Ben Carson Story.

“Either the chancellor doesn’t understand plagiarism, or it was intentional.”

The local paper and some faculty and students at the University of Nevada Las Vegas are trying to attract some general attention to the state’s latest education-related embarrassment:

[T]he agency that oversees higher education in the state lifted large parts of an early draft of a think tank’s report word-for-word…

Their complaint features the Nevada System of Higher Education chancellor because he’s the one who should have humbly acknowledged when the story broke that his organization acted hastily in using another person’s writing (the writing seems to have been circulated in a routine, not-for-quotation, preliminary way), especially in the context of competitive bidding for state funds.

Plus, news-cycle-wise, it’s less than optimal that only a few weeks ago the system’s highest-profile university – UNLV – barely managed to fire a highly esteemed and compensated professor who has been plagiarizing pretty much everything he writes for about thirty years. The plagiarism was pretty well known… pretty well documented… but until the Chronicle of Higher Education began using a yellow highlighter on this guy, UNLV dragged its ass.. And even then, a member of the reviewing committee argued that he shouldn’t be fired!

Throw into the Nevada higher education mix that the only thing you consistently hear about universities there is that some jerks want to build a billion dollar football stadium (‘Kim Sinatra, senior vice president and general counsel for Wynn Resorts, said, “A billion dollars is a lot of money. If we want to spend a billion dollars on UNLV, is it a stadium?”’), and, well, nuff said.

“Plagiarism within a university and a higher education system reflect[s] poorly on Nevada, which is desperately trying to improve its reputation on many fronts, including education.”

Of course this local columnist is right that the state of Nevada has a jaw-droppingly bad ed rep; but she errs in assuming even a non-desperate effort to change this.

UD has for years followed the states of New Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, and Nevada (UD‘s Big Four) as they run their primary, secondary, and post-secondary schools into the ground.

Not one of these states seems to know how to run schools, much less care about running them.

Nevada in particular – entertainment capital of the world – is all about building The World’s Largest 800 Million Dollar University Football Stadium and stuff like that. It’s clear the state doesn’t even know what universities are. Or – again – care. The center of its world is Las Vegas.

Las Vegas. Nevada’s tax base relies on drawing stupid people to the state, and it’s done a bang-up job. State leaders understand there’s, uh, negative utility in drawing smart people.

So who can be surprised that no one there knows what plagiarism is, much less knows that you shouldn’t do it? The same local columnist expresses amazement that the University of Nevada Las Vegas for years housed a high-profile professor who has been loudly called out as a plagiarist since “his 1990 doctoral dissertation at [the] University of Toronto.” She seems surprised that UNLV seemed disinclined to do anything about this guy until the Chronicle of Higher Ed did a big story about him. A commenter at Retraction Watch notes:

UNLV management were probably too busy hushing up scandals with the basketball team to worry about something as trivial as plagiarism on a massive scale…

The columnist seems just as surprised that the Nevada System of Higher Education “copied large sections of [a Brookings Institution] draft report and submitted it to legislators as NSHE’s own proposal.” Why not?

Re-location and translation costs

[Mustafa] Marrouchi primarily stole from works published in the London Review of Books and would often change just a few words, specifically words with British spellings to American spellings.

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