Scott Brown’s recent plagiarism scandal made me wonder if he could so readily try to sweep it under the rug (or disingenuously attribute it to “technical error”) at any other point in his life and get away with it.
His official biography (at least, I hope it’s his and not more of Elizabeth Dole’s) includes:
Senator Brown is a graduate of Wakefield High School, Tufts University, and Boston College Law School.
How does Boston College Law School regard its Code of Academic Conduct?
Infractions of this Code are serious matters which may lead to expulsion, suspension, or other sanctions. They also reflect upon the moral character of the actor, one of the prime considerations for admission to the bar. The School has a duty to reflect in a student’s record proven instances of infractions regardless of the disciplinary action taken in the particular case.
The pursuit of knowledge can proceed only when scholars take responsibility and receive credit for their work. Recognition of individual contributions to knowledge and of the intellectual property of others builds trust within the university and encourages the sharing of ideas that is essential to scholarship. Similarly, the educational process requires that individuals present their own ideas and insights for evaluation, critique, and eventual reformulation. Presentation of others’ work as one’s own is not only intellectual dishonesty, but also undermines the educational process.
Would Scott Brown’s actions have represented a violation of Boston College Law School’s Code?
Cheating is the fraudulent or dishonest presentation of work. Cheating includes but is not limited to: […]
· copying from another student’s work; […]
Plagiarism is the deliberate act of taking the words, ideas, data, illustrations, or statements of another person or source, and presenting them as one’s own. Each student is responsible for learning and using proper methods of paraphrasing and footnoting, quotation, and other forms of citation, to ensure that the original author, speaker, illustrator, or source of the material used is clearly acknowledged.
Clearly, Scott Brown could have been bounced from Boston College Law School, or faced other sanctions, and therefore potentially not have passed the Bar as a result of his plagiarism (and, according to Boston College Law School, cheating).
Would Scott Brown’s actions have been frowned upon at Tufts?
Plagiarism takes a variety of forms. Unacknowledged, word-for-word copying of sections of a book, newspaper article, online document, or another student’s paper is the most extreme form of plagiarism. Even more extreme than plagiarism is outright fraud, which includes submitting as one’s own work a paper purchased from an online term-paper mill or “borrowing” an old paper from a friend. Students who commit fraud can face suspension or expulsion. In its less extreme manifestations, plagiarism involves cutting-and-pasting the words and phrases of someone else into one’s own writing without quotation marks. Students with careless research methods who rely overly on online sources frequently find themselves committing plagiarism when they have copy-and-pasted phrases from a variety of websites into their Word document and cannot remember which words are their own and which belong to someone else.
It is important to note that plagiarism is not always committed intentionally. You may be accused of and punished for plagiarism even if you did not intend to plagiarize or if the plagiarism stems from ignorance of the rules or careless research methods. It is your responsibility to learn the rules of citing and documenting sources and to conduct your research carefully. The United States legal system rigorously defends the copyright and intellectual property of authors, artists, scholars, inventors, and corporations. In the “real world,” plagiarists who steal the ideas and words of someone else can face expensive lawsuits with consequent loss of reputation; some high-profile plagiarists have even lost their jobs. In a University setting, students who plagiarize face disciplinary action, notations on transcripts, and possibly suspension.
Scott Brown’s in luck! It seems that his actions would only warrant suspension at worst and not expulsion from Tufts. So he might have finished his undergraduate studies at Tufts despite plagiarizing. Although, he still could have been expelled from Boston College Law School, though, and not passed the Bar. What penalties for plagiarism, however, will he face as a U.S. Senator? Probably nothing. When it comes to academic & intellectual honesty and Scott Brown, it seems that – to paraphrase Spider-Man – with greater power comes less responsibility. Just food for thought.