Thursday, August 7, 2014

Academic Fraud
     On Juy24 the New York Times published a lengthy article reporting that Montana Senator John Walsh plagiarized a paper he wrote while a student at the US Army War College in 2007 while serving in the National Guard.  The Times reported that "About a third of his paper consists of material either identical to or extremely similar to passages in other sources, such as Carnegie or Harvard papers.  and is presented without attribution.  Another third is attributed to sources through footnotes, but uses other authors' exact-or almost exact- language without quotation marks"
     The paper was required for graduation and graduation from a war college is a requirement for promotion to general officer.  Senator Walsh was promoted to general officer rank after graduation and holds that rank now in retired status.  Plagiarism is thoroughly described in the  War College's Handbook and the faculty constantly reminds students of the requirements for academic integrity.  The Times article further reports that the War College's "current student handbook "states that plagiarism will result in disenrollment and that discoveries of academic violations have led to degrees being rescinded and names being scraped off the bronze plaques honoring graduates on campus."
     It will be interesting to see how the Army handles this situation.  If Senator, or Major General, Walsh is found guilty of plagiarism his degree should be withdrawn and, therefore, his promotion to general officer revoked since he failed to meet the promotion criteria.  Colonel Paul Yingling wrote several years ago that "a private who lost his rifle was punished more than a general who lost his part of a war".  Will institutional cowardice and political pressures be the response to academic fraud?

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