Mary Swenson struggled to finish her doctorate at Capella University. So when she found Sharon Bender, it seemed a saving grace.
A Capella business professor, Bender took an interest in Swenson's management research, even suggesting they team up on a book, Swenson said.
Instead, she charges, her mentor began lifting her work. Swenson said she discovered 'thinly veiled' versions of her own writing on Bender's Web site and said that, when confronted, her mentor claimed she deserved some credit herself.
Bender said Swenson's claims are not true - and said it was Swenson who co-opted her ideas.
Passing off someone's work as your own is a cardinal sin in college research. Students can be expelled. Professional reputations can be wrecked. While student plagiarism grabs headlines, allegations against teachers happen more than people realize, experts say. Because students rarely fight back, most accusations fade in the grumbling over beers after class.
This time, though, the student is suing.
Scheduled for trial this summer in Anoka County, Swenson's lawsuit against Bender may offer an unvarnished look at who controls ideas in the give-and-take of college research. It also may open a window on the complex ties between teachers and students who need a mentor's help and influence - and who understand they are unlikely to get the benefit of the doubt.
Monday, June 18, 2007