The Dissident Prof has spent many an agonizing hour with the student who has insulted her intelligence by copying and pasting large pieces of text into her own paper. She has followed the policy of the various institutions in which she has taught and punished students accordingly. She remembers one case of a solid B student who in the midst of the rush or the excitement of the end of the semester decided to use the cut and paste functions on her keyboard for large portions of the final paper. Alas, I had to inform her that her paper received a zero. Her final letter grade dropped down to the next one. That is one reason why college professors always have boxes of tissues on their desks.
The same punishment is not meted to some tenured professors, however.
In Minding the Campus, I write about the case of Slavoj Zizek, the Slovenian pseudo-philosopher who was discovered to have lifted entire passages from the magazine American Renaissance. Writers jumped to his defense. At Inside Higher Ed the worshipful Hollis Phelps contextualized the “sharing” in terms of postmodernism and death of the author, etc.–plus the fact that such a celebrity academic cannot be fully responsible for errors committed by assistants. Zizek holds forth, sometimes bare-chested from his bed, mixing Marxism, Freudianism, Hegelianism, and pop psychology to offer what is taken as trenchant commentary. There are entire college courses and books on Zizek. Fortunately, Professor Zizek remains covered up in his bed.
The Cabinet of Plagiarism blogger calls this “the summer of plagiarism,” and brings to our attention also the case of Professor Matthew C. Whitaker, who is Professor of History and Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Arizona State University, who was recently accused of plagiarizing.
Professor Whitaker: the Cabinet has wearied of him. No interesting defense of his actions has ever come forth. Yet Professor Whitaker sails majestically on, writing editorials decrying the immorality of, for example, net metering (to the great delight of the Edison Institute, at whose conference he also spoke) and preparing for another semester in which he will require his students to purchase his University of Nebraska Press book — thereby inducting them into one aspect of academic scholarship, even if he is woefully unable to induct them into others. Too big to fail at his university and press, Professor Whitaker is perhaps too small to matter to anyone else. But….
No doubt these professors are directing their minions (a term used to describe Marxist Zizek’s student assistants) to compile syllabi in preparation for the upcoming school year.
Not only professors, but history book writers, are being accused of plagiarism this summer. Today, we learn that New York Times/NPR darling Rick Perlstein is being accused of “sloppy scholarship, improper attribution and plagiarism” in his new book on Ronald Reagan, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan. The Times refers to its own “prominent book critic” Frank Rich, who in his review applauded Perlstein’s “gifts as a historian.”
Unlike the professors, it doesn’t look like Montana Senator John Walsh will escape political punishment for plagiarizing his master’s thesis at the U.S. Army War College. He is getting pressure to resign, and Democrats seem to be talking about a replacement candidate.
In the case of Professor Whitaker, Inside Higher Ed reported that after he was found not guilty of deliberate academic misconduct, “the chair of his department’s tenure committee resigned in protest and other faculty members spoke out against the findings, saying their colleague – who recently had been promoted to full professor – was cleared even though what he did likely would have gotten an undergraduate in trouble.” As the Cabinet of Plagiarism reported, Whitaker will likely assign his plagiarized books to students in the upcoming semester.
As for the globe-trotting, lecture-bed-hopping Professor Zizek? He seems to be a one-man academic-industrial complex. In 2012, Salon reported he had published over 50 books. In some years he has published four books. But of course that cannot be too much when his Marxist ideas will be redistributed to students buying his books as they study the great man in seminars devoted to Slavoj Zizek.