Sunday, September 10, 2006

plagiarism at SIUC

The recent Chronicle article about plagiarism in the Southern at 150 report brings up a number of questions, and is very important to me, since I teach about plagiarism as part of my life work. If you haven't read the news, our strategic plan, Southern at 150, has been found to have been copied at least partially from one at Texas A & M, and was even called Vision 20/20 at one point, like the Texas A & M plan. So, if it was plagiarism, it was not very sly plagiarism, in the sense that someone might have known they were copying it, or might have tried to lift a finger to cover their tracks in any way.

First, I have used my own leftovers on my own work before, and think that's entirely possible and explainable in some circumstances; if you wrote it yourself, you surely could write it again, as it sounds natural enough. I guess what bothers me is this: if we were all supposed to be in on this idea of the future, shouldn't that alone make it unique? Shouldn't vision for our future, by its nature, include us as we are now, and what is special about us, and what we ourselves think is best or possible?

One of the ironic things about Southern at 150 is that before this, probably very few people had even read it (maybe it's an elaborate trick to get them to read it...if so, it won't work for me). I admit that I only scanned it, and even then it was for some hint that: 1) we recognize that the world is getting smaller; and, increased and rapid awareness of other peoples, their languages and cultures will be absolutely essential in the new world; 2) we recognize that awareness of languages and the teaching and learning of them will be absolutely crucial in the new world; and/or 3) we have some awareness of how important the new technology and the new media will be in the shaping of our immediate future. I admit that I didn't find any of this in my brief encounter, and thus concluded that it was somewhat short in the "vision" department, at least as I would have defined the term. I couldn't have imagined that it had been somebody else's dinner a few years back.

Every university wants to be in the top 75, if it isn't already. And every one of them is going to use the usual stuff to get there- the usual words, the warmed up platitudes about academic excellence, etc. The ones that make it, though, or even move up on the list, are going to be the ones that have their own vision, and enact it. It is important. Somebody needs to account for what happened here. Then, let's start over again, and this time, open our eyes.

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