My Professor the Plagiarist

Philosophical ruminations.
Dec. 21 1999 3:30 AM

My Professor the Plagiarist

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The Human Decoder Ring Chromosome 22 has been almost completely decoded by an international team of scientists. As reported in a recent issue of Nature, the very first sequenced chromosome may offer new insights into many human diseases, including schizophrenia. (The human species has 23 pairs of chromosomes.) The researchers, who hail from Australia, Britain, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden, and the United States, discovered that Chromosome 22 contains 33.4 million different letters of genetic code and at least 545 genes. Thanks to the Internet, the data has reached other scientists around the world, many of whom are using it in their own studies.

Milestones in PR

The chairman of the department of mass communication, advertising, and public relations at Boston University stepped down from his administrative post after being accused of plagiarism. In a lecture delivered to 400 undergraduates, John Schulz used a 64-word sentence from a recent Nation article by Alexander Stille without attribution. The line was identified by a student, who publicized the transgression in an Internet chat room and sent a letter to the school of communications' dean. According to the Boston Globe, Schulz says that he didn't give the proper citation for the quote because he was pressed for time. Still, he insists that his "ethical lapse" must be punished.

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… and a Two-Year Supply of Cheese

Did Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wis., over-prepare for Y2K? The public school's $130,000 general disaster-recovery plan, in the works for two years, provides enough food, water, fuel-oil tanks, and electrical generators to sustain 500 people for a week. Lakeshore President Dennis J. Ladwig insists that the program was designed for other contingencies, such as bad weather. But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel disputed this, publishing a story headlined "College preparing for worst from Y2K." Wisconsin state senator Bob Jauch denounced the planning as "nutty behavior that isn't fitting of a public institution."

East Meets West

Last year, Duke University students and professors debated the value of studying Eastern cultures instead of Western ones when a call was made to establish a new curricular concentration in Hindi. Editors of the DukeReview, a conservative campus periodical, avowed that Western values are "superior to the values of a primitive, impoverished country like India." Now that the academic concentration has been approved, Anand Shah, co-president of Diya, Duke's South Asian student organization, told the Raleigh News and Observer, "I don't foresee further debate about the issue." But Jay Strader of the DukeReview complained, "This is another example of Duke administrators bowing to the interests of special-interest groups."

Buying the Court

New York University School of Law--a k a "The Global Law School"--is supplying the International Court of Justice at the Hague with its very first batch of law clerks. The intern program, which will send five NYU graduates to the Hague for a year, is fully funded by money raised by NYU from (as yet) anonymous sources. Court President Stephen Schwebel, an American who once taught at Johns Hopkins, told the AmericanLawyer that NYU's assistance was appreciated because "the United Nations is in poor financial shape."

But Will He Bring Back the Football Team?

The University of Chicago has chosen a new president--but the debate over the ongoing shake-up at the school continues. Don Michael Randel, currently provost at Cornell University, has been selected to succeed Hugo Sonnenschein, who stepped down in June. Sonnenschein had sought to promote changes at the university--increasing enrollment, scaling back the school's "Great Books" core curriculum, reducing overall stuffiness--changes that many alumni, faculty, and students feared would compromise the school's identity. The New York Times notes that the Renaissance musicologist is expected to continue with the former president's plans, though in a more harmonious manner.

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UC Santa Cruz To Make the Grades?

For the last 24 years, students at the University of California, Santa Cruz have been able to ask their professors for written evaluations instead of the standard grades. But in November 170 faculty members asked the academic senate to adopt a more conventional grading system. A vote on the proposal by the 588-member senate was postponed in early December after nearly 1,000 grade-hating students showed up to protest the change, reports the Associated Press.

They Shoot Students, Don't They?

In early December, a Princeton University student complained in an Internet discussion forum that his religion thesis prep class was a waste of time, adding that one professor in the department agreed with him. But Shaun E. Marmon, the professor in question, says that she never agreed with the student and proceeded to post a message suggesting that complaining students were lucky not to be in the Marine Corps and quipped that it was true that the Marines "do not shoot people at dawn anymore." The chair of the religion department told the Chronicle of Higher Education that some students were "a little agitated" by the professor's message but added that no disciplinary action would be taken.

LegalEducation.com

Concord University Law School, which is located in cyberspace, is probably the only law school whose dean of students lives in Boston, whose dean of faculty lives in Denver, and whose students attend class in their bathrobes. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg put the school into the news this month when she expressed her dismay about online legal education to the San Jose Mercury News. Ginsburg decried the lack of "face-to-face interaction," to which Concord student William Boletta responded, "I suggest that she might want to take a Tylenol or two and get ready for the 21st century."

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More Catholic Than the Pope

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a controversial set of guidelines for the country's 230 Roman Catholic institutions of higher learning in November. The guidelines (click here to read them) call for a majority of faculty members and trustees to be Catholic, for new Catholic university presidents to publicize their commitment to their faith, and for professors of theology to receive a general approval from their local bishop. In the pages of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Santa Clara University President the Rev. Paul Locatelli warned that if the guidelines are "interpreted too rigidly, we could look like seminaries and not universities."

Preschool for College Freshmen

The New York State Regents have tightened admissions for applicants to the City University of New York. Incoming students who test poorly on math and English placement tests will no longer be allowed to attend CUNY while taking remedial classes to improve their skills. Instead, they'll be redirected to other institutions to prepare them for college-level work. The measure will affect 10 percent of applicants. Supporters say the move will improve CUNY's standing. Critics worry that it will discourage students from applying to the school.