Monday, July 28, 2014

Can Plagiarism Be Caused by PTSD?

A newly-appointed U.S. Senator from Montana blamed his non-attribution of sources in his master's degree thesis on PTSD ("Walsh Says He Was Being Treated for PTSD When He Plagiarized Paper," Billings Gazette, July 23, 2014). One-fourth of John Walsh's paper for the U.S. Army War College appears to have been plagiarized. What is most disconcerting is that he used another source verbatim for a key part of the project.

In a New York Times article from July 24, 2014, the U.S. Army War College is ready to convene a review board next month to look into the allegation. The Times story notes that in the last fourteen years only six people have been stripped of their degrees at the college due to plagiarism.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Walsh says he "excelled on the battlefield" and that a "few mistakes in a term paper should not define my career." If one-fourth of his thesis was copied from another source as indicated in the story, do you think Walsh's statement is justified? Why or why not?
  2. Should individuals in the military be held to a higher standard of ethics than the general public? Why or why not?
  3. What do you think of his PTSD defense as the reason for committing plagiarism?
  4. Should Walsh lose his degree and his job at U.S. Senator for this breach of academic integrity? Why or why not?