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Bush Team Finds New Work.

Apparently the folks from the Bush Administration have already started finding new work in the private sector and the education field.

SIU accused of copying plagiarism policy

Wendy Weinhold

Published: Thursday, January 29, 2009
Updated: Thursday, January 29, 2009

Members of a committee formed in response to plagiarism accusations levied against a former university administrator received word this week that they need to reconvene and examine documents they may have plagiarized.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the 10-member committee of Southern Illinois University academics and administrators commissioned to develop a plagiarism policy may have borrowed from Indiana University’s definition—without citing IU.

SIU officials seemed surprised by the news and stressed the policy was still in draft form.
It would be a near perfect example of irony: a definition of plagiarism created in the wake of plagiarism scandals may itself have been plagiarized.

Both policies open with similar sentences.

“Plagiarism is defined as presenting existing work as one’s own,” the SIU definition reads.

“Plagiarism is defined as presenting someone else’s work, including the work of other students, as one’s own,” the IU definition begins.

SIU’s 139-word definition is nearly identical to the definition IU adopted in 2005 and currently publishes on its Web site under the heading, “How to recognize plagiarism.”

According to the Chronicle, the committee’s chairman, Arthur M. “Lain” Adkins, did not know how the mishap occurred. He confirmed the language in the two reports was “very similar,” but told the Chronicle he did not believe that meant his committee had engaged in wrongdoing.

“It could be a coincidence,” Adkins told the Chronicle. “Any definition by nature is going to be close to another definition.”

Adkins, who serves as director of the University Press, told the Chronicle that R. Gerald Nelms, a recognized plagiarism expert and associate professor of English at SIUC, “most likely” wrote SIU’s version. Nelms told the Chronicle he suspected any similarities were “coincidental.”

Nelms said he was not sure if he was responsible for the similar wording.

Committee member Liz DiLalla, an SIUC professor of behavioral social science, said she was shocked and surprised to learn of the magazine’s report. She described the news as “bizarre.”

“I assume we will be hashing this out very soon,” DiLalla said.

DiLalla said no date has been set for the committee to meet.

The committee was organized in December 2006 after plagiarism allegations surfaced against former chancellor Walter Wendler.

The committee deliberated for approximately 10 months before releasing its 17-page report. The report was made public the same day in October 2007 that a panel first convened to investigate accusations of plagiarism against SIU President Glenn Poshard.

It makes sense for SIU and IU’s policies to be similar, said SIUC speech communications professor Lenore Langsdorf, who was a member of the seven-person panel that ultimately found Poshard guilty of inadvertent plagiarism. Langsdorf said the more uniformity in the definition of plagiarism across institutions, the better, and the less likely people are to be confused about what amounts to plagiarism.

But the committee that wrote SIU’s plagiarism definition should have attributed its source, she said.

“Why reinvent the wheel?” Langsdorf said. “You borrow it, and then you cite it, and that’s totally legitimate as far as I’m concerned.”

A reporter from The Chronicle of Higher Education called administrators Tuesday, university spokesman David Gross said.

On Wednesday, the magazine reported on the similarities in the plagiarism policies of Indiana University and SIU.

After the story was published, the committee members received an e-mail from Adkins, who said they would need to meet soon, DiLalla said.

Gross emphasized that the committee’s plagiarism definition was a draft. He acknowledged the definitions are very similar and said the two university’s definitions are “broad-based, commonly used definitions of plagiarism.”

“Our lawyers will argue there’s no institutional right or copyright to this term,” Gross said.“The issue of whether the term can be plagiarized is at point. There’s no author, no publisher.”

Chancellor Samuel Goldman did not return a phone message left at his home Thursday night. Officials at IU could not be reached for comment.

Daily Egyptian - SIU accused of copying plagiarism policy


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