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The Reality of Plagiarism…

… is that only the powerless get punished for it.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, a plagiarist who, as Slate‘s Timothy Noah writes, lied about what she did, has suffered nothing for her behavior; on the contrary, she continues to be honored with awards of the sort Vanderbilt’s about to give her. The only people at Vanderbilt pissed off about this are its students.

Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Richard McCarty maintains his support for Vanderbilt’s decision to honor historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in spite of criticism from students.

Goodwin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and well-known historian, is the recipient of the 2009 Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal and will be the keynote speaker on Senior Class Day. Goodwin was also the center of a plagiarism scandal…

In 2002, Goodwin was accused of plagiarism in two news articles. Goodwin addressed the accusations in Time Magazine, asserting the errors were unintentional. Although Goodwin provided footnotes for her sources, she attributed her failure to “provide quotation marks for phrases I had taken verbatim” to mislabeling in her notes due to the large-scale nature of her research. She also confessed to having previously reached a “private settlement” with an author of one of her sources.

Senior Meghana Bhatta, an investigative member of the honor council, said Goodwin provided a “feeble excuse that would not even stand up in a high school classroom, much less in the world of academia.”

“Vanderbilt is sending a flawed and hypocritical message to its students and to other institutions by hosting an admitted plagiarist,” Bhatta said. “I hope that the administration realizes that we risk losing credibility in the eyes of the public by demonstrating support for a woman who does not stand for the ideals of our school.”

The allegations resulted in her resignation from several positions, but she still retained the support of many scholars and readers.

“I think she has answered those accusations and she gave ample credit to a source that she used,” McCarty said. “She worked out an arrangement with that author, but she in no way attempted to present that work as her own.” [Er. Yes she did. That’s why she paid said source an ample sum of money to shut her up.]”

“I find it odd that Vanderbilt, a university that makes every freshman sign the honor code, would reward her for work that was admittedly taken without notation from other sources,” [said a student] in regard to Goodwin’s past….


Update: The DKG Plagiarism Archive at University Diaries. Note that she ran into exactly the same trouble at the University of Virginia. Those pesky damn students.

Margaret Soltan, April 5, 2009 8:17AM
Posted in: plagiarism

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2 Responses to “The Reality of Plagiarism…”

  1. Goat Says:

    I went to a different Southern university that also required an honor code of its students. It was, shall we say, a bit stricter. Eight students, during my years there, were kicked out on honor violations. Of them, seven ended up at Vanderbilt. I’m starting to realize that is not nearly as odd as I thought it at the time…

  2. University Diaries » Good Morning, Nashville. Says:

    […] referral log tells me that many Vanderbilt people are reading UD on the insult of your university having rewarded a plagiarist with a medal and the keynote speech […]

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