More on plagiarism, Harvard, and the AHA

I talked about plagiarism this month but missed three interesting items.

(1) Ironic history. In a recent post on historiography and plagiarism, I mentioned that Peter Hoffer has a book on the way analyzing history plagiarism scandals; he is described by his publisher as "a member of the American Historical Association's professional division, which audits the standards of academic historians' work." While noting that some of the essays in his book address AHA member transgressions, I neglected to highlight the weasel words, "audits the standards of academic historians' work." That might exclude a Goodwin or an Ambrose since these are trade authors. And since the AHA was founded with the trade market in mind, who in the membership is eligible for an audit, ever?

The biggest equivocation here is "audits" because in May 2003, the AHA ditched its investigation mandate.

That's one way to seperate your organization from a public scandal involving the professionalism of its members.

Hoffer does not seem to have had a hand in that decision; I hope he discusses it in his book, as well as explain what these "audits" are all about.

(2) Ironic administration. In mentioning Harvard Law's faculty plagiarism disaster, I failed to note that in May of this year a young lady's admission to the undergraduate division of the university was rescinded after she became embroiled in a plagiarism incident involving columns penned for the local newspaper. It may have also harmed her case that 2,700 high school classmates petitioned Harvard to keep her out. She appears to be a divisive personality, but the exclusion should have given warning to a faculty that insists on rationalizing its own academic crimes and misdemeanors. (See here, here, here, and maybe here).

(3) Cheating is a growing phenomenon:

Surveys consistently show that cheating among college students is rising. For instance, while 10 percent of students said in 1999 they cut and pasted unattributed material directly from the Internet to their papers, the percentage rose to 41 percent in 2001, according to the Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University.

Those are admitted cheats.

The good news here as that the software applications colleges use to catch cheaters are commercial products. They can be sold to anyone and applied to the work of professors and pop historians, too.

You see, there's always a bright side to the darkest story.