Friday, August 31, 2007

Southern Illinois President Faces Allegations He Plagiarized His Dissertation

The president of Southern Illinois University, Glenn Poshard, is being forced to defend his 1984 dissertation against accusations that it contains numerous examples of plagiarism and improper citation. The student newspaper at the university's Carbondale campus, the Daily Egyptian, did a detailed examination of his dissertation and presented its findings to Mr. Poshard this week. He told the newspaper that he was very busy when the dissertation was completed. 'This is not an excuse, and I would never offer it up as an excuse, but at that point in my life, I had a family,' he was quoted as saying. 'I worked two jobs. I was running for the Illinois State Senate. I was trying to get my dissertation finished.' Mr. Poshard received his Ph.D. in education from Southern Illinois at Carbondale. Through a spokesman, Mr. Poshard declined an interview request from The Chronicle, but the spokesman said Mr. Poshard would respond to the allegations after he had had a chance to review them. The allegations are the latest in a series of accusations of plagiarism against top officials at Southern Illinois. Last year Mr. Poshard asked the chancellor of the university's Carbondale campus, Walter V. Wendler, to step down after revelations that portions of a strategic plan Mr. Wendler put together came from an earlier strategic plan he helped write for Texas A&M University at College Station (The Chronicle, November 9, 2006).

Mr. Wendler's copying was brought to light by a group of professors and students close to Chris Dussold, an assistant professor of finance at Southern Illinois at Edwardsville who was fired in 2004 for copying his two-page teaching statement (The Chronicle, February 10, 2006). After his dismissal, Mr. Dussold and a group of supporters set out to uncover examples of plagiarism at the university in order to prove that he had been treated unfairly. Mr. Dussold has filed a lawsuit against the university for wrongful termination. ...

There are several examples in the dissertation of what might be called classic plagiarism: Passages are lifted verbatim, or near verbatim, with no citation given. In one instance, a 68-word passage from another source is used without quotation marks or citation. The two passages are identical except for a single word change: Mr. Poshard has substituted "a" for "another."

In another example, an 80-word section, also lacking quotation marks or citation, is taken from another source with only a few minor changes -- such as switching a verb from "has been" to "was."

In addition, there are numerous examples in which Mr. Poshard appears to disregard the accepted rules of crediting someone else's work. While he may cite a particular source, he often fails to place quotation marks around passages he uses verbatim. For instance, Mr. Poshard writes that "It has become almost axiomatic to say that the welfare of the world rests significantly with the utilization of the potential of the gifted youth to solve social, economic, ecological, political, and human problems."

He cites the source but does not indicate that the passage is copied nearly word for word. There are so many examples of such practices that the dissertation seems as if it has been cut-and-pasted from other sources. Mr. Poshard told the student newspaper that no one on his dissertation committee told him that he had to use quotation marks.

1 comment:

Alan Jay Weisbard said...

Richard Friedman writes:

"Mr. Poshard told the student newspaper that no one on his dissertation
committee told him that he had to use quotation marks." I'm almost more
appalled that he would try to use this rationale than that he
plagiarized in the first place.

AJW responds: Truly a profile in educational leadership. I thought that was pretty incredible as well.