Sunday, May 4, 2014

Professor Moves to Dean's Post Despite Multiple Incidences of Plagiarism

Because inadvertent plagiarism is not included as a research misconduct infraction in the institution's policy, a Brown University English department faculty member began a new job as an associate dean after her "unintentional" plagiarism had already surfaced ("After Plagiarism Allegations, Prof. Was Named Dean," The Brown Daily Herald, April 24, 2014).

Vanessa Ryan used over two dozen copied passages from other authors in her 2012 book that is no longer in print from Johns Hopkins University Press. She has apologized publicly about her errors, but also located "unattributed material in her dissertation" from Yale. The committee looking into her plagiarism while on the payroll at Brown acknowledged that she did plagiarize the work of others, but that her "honest error" was not considered "misconduct."

Discussion Questions:
  1. Should an English professor know better than to make such obvious mistakes as copying others without giving them credit, especially in a book published by a well-known university press? If so, why do you think she committed such errors?
  2. Her new administrative job is a temporary one for eighteen months, but should she have been fired for such a blatant mistake? Since she also acknowledged errors of attribution in her Yale dissertation, why would Brown want to continue to employ her?
  3. She continues to work with students on research projects on a limited basis. If you were one of those students, would you want to ask if you could work with another research adviser that had a better academic reputation even if the completion of your work might be delayed by the change? 

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