Thursday, March 23, 2006

Honor code

For the past 48 hours, the world has been piling on the new conservative blogger for the Washington Post, a 24-year old wingnut named Ben Domenech, a young man who -- as my brother discovered on his way to his 15 minutes of blogospheric fame -- has authored some of the most encyclopedically stupid pronouncements over his several years' experience with the internets.

Now we discover that Mr. "Red America" is in fact a plagiarist as well, having deliberately pilfered PJ O'Rourke's Modern Manners (1989) for a college newspaper column he wrote as a student at my brother's alma mater, William and Mary. As the chair of my university's academic misconduct committee, I must say I was eager to see what the W&M honor code -- one of the strictest in the nation -- has to say about the character of a student who would so openly lift the words of another published author. And lo, I was satisfied:
2. Cheating is the act of wrongfully using or taking the ideas or work of another in order to gain an unfair advantage. It includes, but is not limited to:
(1) the act of plagiarism;
(2) the acts of giving unauthorized aid to another student or receiving unauthorized aid from another person on tests, quizzes,assignments or examinations;
(3) the acts of using or consulting unauthorized materials or using unauthorized equipment or devices on tests, quizzes, assignments or examinations;
(4) the acts of using any material portion of a paper or project to fulfill the requirements of more than one course unless the student has received prior permission to do so;
(5) the acts of intentionally commencing work or failing to terminate work on any examination, test, quiz or assignment according to the time constraints imposed.

The term "assignment" includes any work, required or volunteered, and submitted to a faculty member for review and/or academic credit, or any work, required or volunteered, submitted for publication in a College-sponsored or other publication, or any work, required or volunteered, submitted for use in conjunction with a College-sponsored event or activity. All academic work undertaken by a student must be completed independently unless the faculty member or other responsible authority expressly authorizes collaboration with another.

Plagiarism occurs when a student, with intent to deceive or with reckless disregard for proper scholarly procedures, presents any information, ideas or phrasing of another as if they were his or her own and does not give appropriate credit to the original source.

Now that Domenech has apologized for describing Coretta Scott King as a "communist" on the day of her funeral, I suppose he might want to resolve this little problem as well. Too bad the W&M honor code doesn't appear to be retroactive. As I recall, a number of students from the University of Virginia had their degrees rescinded a few years back when a multi-year cheating scandal was discovered to have taken place among students in an introductory physics class.

Update: RedState offers its melodramatic, incoherent defense of plagiarism:
And now those opposed to Ben have googled prior writings that on the surface appear suspicious, but only because permissions obtained and judgments made offline were not reflected online by an out dated and out of business campus newspaper. But that's all the opponents want - just enough to sabotage a career, though in the process they will sabotage themselves. Facts have no meaning. Only impressions have any bearing on this. The charges of plagarism are false, meant to bring down a good and honest man. The presented facts to prove plagarism are specious -- products of shoddy work. One could easily think the producers of 60 Minutes II were behind them.

I'm sure the editors of The Flat Hat would be suprised to hear that their 95-year old publication has suddenly closed up shop, or that they had once secured permission to run copyrighted material -- without attribution -- under a student byline.