Jack Cashill, who has previously stirred up controversy by alleging that Bill Ayers wrote Obama’s Dreams From My Father, connects some dots about the prevalence of plagiarism and/or ghost-writing among Harvard Law School professors, and the dubious role of Supreme Court nominee and former HLS Dean Elena Kagan in investigating some of these allegations.
This Boston Globe article backs up Cashill’s assertions about the overwhelming use of assistants by these professors (in particular Tribe and Ogletree, two especially worshipful Obamaphiles), and the sloppiness about attributions that seems to be the result. It also turns out that HLS’s Alan Dershowitz, one of Tribe’s big defenders, had a similar allegation of plagiarism made against him. And then there’s the plagiarism case of Harvard Overseer Doris Kearns Goodwin, as well as that of our Vice President Joe Biden (non-Harvard man).
Are you noting a trend? Because I am. All these people are liberal Democrats.
Which is not to say that the same thing doesn’t or can’t happen among conservatives or Republicans (here’s one I found in a quick search; feel free to offer others if you know them). It’s just interesting that these especially prominent cases seem to all feature those on the other side.
If it had been students making the same “errors,” Harvard might come down quite differently. But these professors were excused. Note that great legal mind Alan Dershowitz’s explanation:
Harvard’s Writing With Sources manual, which is distributed to all undergraduates when they enter as freshmen, offers a crystal-clear definition of plagiarism: “passing off a source’s information, ideas, or words as your own by omitting to cite them; an act of lying, cheating, and stealing.”
But Dershowitz said guidelines in the legal profession are murkier.
He said that judges frequently rely on lawyers’ briefs and clerks’ memoranda in drafting opinions. This results in a “cultural difference” between sourcing in the legal profession and other academic disciplines, Dershowitz said.
I have no doubt that judges rely on lawyers’ briefs and clerks’ memoranda. But “rely on” is not the same thing is “quote from without attribution.”
As for Kagan’s role in the whole thing, here’s an article with some of the details, entitled “Kagan Whitewash.” The piece also includes some specifics of the quotes Tribe is purported to have plagiarized. The fact that many are close paraphrases rather than exact quotes is especially suspicious, because in such cases it’s hard to believe that the quotation marks had merely been left out.
What did they find? Nobody knows. The report was not released and former Harvard president Derek Bok, one the authors, refused to discuss it when reached by JewishWorldReview.com at home last week.
The only “punishment” Tribe got was a statement by Kagan and Summers that cleared him of any malfeasance.
“The unattributed materials relates more to matters of phrasing than to fundamental ideas,” they said, offering a distinction that would have been irrelevant to Harvard if a student had done the same thing. “We are also firmly convinced that the error was the product of inadvertence rather than intentionality.”
“Nevertheless, we regard the error in question as a significant lapse in proper academic practice.”
A lapse? That’s like saying someone who bounces check didn’t swindle anyone the bum checks were just a lapse in accounting procedures. Or the shoplifter had a lapse in memory when he left the store without paying.
And again, just like Kagan’s statement on Ogletree, if the lapse was so ” significant” why wasn’t Tribe sanctioned?
In a lengthy article for his blog, Massachusetts School of Law Dean Lawrence Velvel said Kagan and Summers should have been axed for their “whitewash.”
He cited example after example of how Kagan and Tribe essentially offered excuses for the very actions they purported to condemn.
But I have a theory about the whole thing: perhaps Kagan, Tribe, Dershowitz, and Ogletree and all the rest are fans of another noted liberal (and Harvard man—although by way of math rather than law), Tom Lehrer. Since I happen to have a near-total recall of Lehrer’s incomparable oeuvre, I could not help but be reminded of his tongue-in-cheek exploration of the advantages of plagiarism in academia. Have a listen:
The most relevant verse (please read the whole thing, however) is:
I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky.
In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics:
Let no one else’s work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
So don’t shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize -
Only be sure always to call it please “research.”
[NOTE: The reason I know Tom Lehrer's work by heart is that I was such a fan that I committed it to memory as a child. Unfortunately, however, in his later years Tom Lehrer became a sufferer from a fairly advanced case of Bush Derangement Syndrome.]