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October 11, 2007

SIU Professors: Our Boss is NOT GUILTY

How remarkable. The president of Southern Illinois University is accused of plagiarism in his doctoral dissertation, and a committee made up of his employees find him totally innocent.

That’s not to say he didn’t plagiarize. The report, a copy of which was given to The Chronicle earlier today, finds “many instances” in Mr. Poshard’s dissertation in which “the words of others are present in a continuous flow with student Poshard’s own words, so that readers cannot distinguish between those sources.” Remarkably, the report does not deem those instances to be plagiarism. They are, instead, “errors and mistakes.”

The committee, made up of seven Southern Illinois faculty members, writes that there are a number of mitigating factors, such as the lack of a definition of plagiarism in the graduate-student handbook at the time. It goes on to say that his many failures to properly credit the work of others was “consistent with the informal style” practiced by others in his department. It recommends that Mr. Poshard be allowed to correct the “incorrect practices” in the dissertation and that no disciplinary action be taken.

So he used the words of others, but it's not plagiarism because that was just the style of the time - the "hey, everybody did it" defense.

Makes me wonder as to the tenure status of these seven professors, and whether any SIU students will try this defense next time they are caught copying the works of others without attribution.

This committee set a pretty bad precedent - I hope for the university's sake no litigious students get disciplined for plagiarism in the future. It's enough to make you think people shouldn't investigate their bosses.

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posted by Slublog at 04:44 PM

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