Sunday, September 26, 2004

Professional responsibility

Yet another Harvard Law School professor is charged with plagiarism. This is the third big name HLS prof so accused in the last year (the previous cases regarded Dershowitz and Ogletree). Perhaps a lot of this would be eliminated if professors of law were held to the same standards as their students. From the Harvard Law School Catalog:
2. Preparation of Papers and Other Work-Plagiarism and Collaboration
All work submitted by a student for any academic or non-academic exercise is expected to be the student's own work. In the preparation of their work, students should always take great care to distinguish their own ideas and knowledge from information derived from sources. The term "sources" includes not only published or computer-accessed primary and secondary material, but also information and opinions gained directly from other people.
The responsibility for learning the proper forms of citation lies with the individual student. Quotations must be properly placed within quotation marks and must be fully cited. In addition, all paraphrased material must be completely acknowledged. Whenever ideas or facts are derived from a student's reading and research, the sources must be indicated.
The amount of collaboration with others that is permitted in the completion of work can vary, depending upon the policy set by the head of the course or the supervisor of a particular exercise. Students should assume that collaboration in the completion of work is prohibited, unless explicitly permitted, and students should acknowledge any collaboration and its extent in all submitted work.
Students who are in any doubt about the preparation of their work should consult the appropriate instructor, supervisor, or administrator before it is prepared or submitted.
Students who submit work that is not their own without clear attribution of all sources, even if inadvertently, will be subject to disciplinary action.
Of course, no significant disciplinary action appears to have been taken in any of these cases. But perhaps it's too much to ask of HLS; after all, if they refuse to punish students who brag about cheating, how can they slap a protesting professor on the wrist for such "errors?"

For those students who are preparing to begin work on a law journal: keep your eyes peeled and source your articles carefully. Since academia refuses to enforce any sort of norm that would require law professors to write their own articles and books, we have to take up the slack by making sure that the publications they do produce only steal ideas and expressions from their research assistants.
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