Local dean of medicine plagiarizes convocation speech

University of Alberta Dean of Medicine is so inspired that he lifts graduation speech from one last year at Stanford. Claims only parts were not cited properly as inspiration while grads at the ceremony claim it was an outright lift.

The tip-off? “Velluvial matrix.”

The U of A Guide to Plagiarism

He should lose his position as Dean for this, but he won’t.

He’s a physician and a scientist, and plagiarism should be rightly viewed as a serious offense if you take science seriously. Other academic areas should take it seriously too of course.

Additionally, I’m positive medical students have been expelled from his medical school for the precise same offense. Academics are notorious for harshly enforcing plagiarism rules on their student body and then looking the other way when the faculty commit the very same offense.

Which, of course, drives home the message that plagiarism is really just the academic equivalent of a minor traffic violation. Which is a corrosive idea in a place where academic integrity is putatively treasured.

The defense “I just forgot to cite it correctly” is bullshit, and it’s the typical lame defense offered by every plagiarist since the beginning of time. He absolutely should not be in charge of educating medical students.

It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if someone does a little digging into his published work and finds other instances of where he “forgot to cite.”

Except it’s a fucking convocation speech that 90% of the graduating body is too hungover to hear properly.

Look, he is an ass, and you could probably see his assness spillover into the rest of the work, but immediately jumping to “he should be fired” is an overreaction. Lifting a speech you’re too bored/uninterested/busy/lazy to write is an order of magnitude different from fudging data and faking experiments.

It’s nice that you seem to have a bone to pick with medical schools, though. Everyone should have a hobby.

I’m with Hiredgoons on this one.

Professors get hired and fired on almost solely on the basis of the creation of ideas, so copying something in academia is a much bigger deal than outside of academia.

This guy should be fired. I’ll be surprised if he keeps his position as dean, and it seems likely he’ll lose his professorship as well, although I don’t know the Canadian system very well, so perhaps they’ll be more lenient.

For sure if a student had done the same thing they would have been suspended.

It’s pretty much exactly the same as an undergrad copying someone else’s paper because they are too bored/uninterested/busy/lazy to write it on their own. And that usually will result in a suspension.

I don’t think a student would have been suspended for it. If you turn in someone else’s work for a grade, you get suspended. That’s plagiarism. This kind of is too, but not academic plagiarism in the sense you are using it. In academics, plagiarism is a big deal because that is our intellectual property. We do research and we write papers, and they take time and affect our jobs. A convocation speech is not academic writing though.

That doesn’t excuse what the dean did, of course.

That’s actually an interesting point Robert. If a student plagiarized something and it wasn’t turned in for a grade, it might be treated differently. I still suspect if it was a high-profile event publicized off-campus with lots of outsiders present, my university would treat it very seriously, likely resulting in suspension. If it was something like an internal talk someone gave to a club or organization, it would probably just be ignored.

Yeah, the context probably would matter, because of how it reflects on the university. I wonder how high profile this speech would have been if students hadn’t started talking about it this way. The fact that they did do so will mean some uncomfortable times for the Dean though, since it now DOES reflect poorly on the university.

So this is uncool, but ghost writers are perfectly fine?

He should have gotten permission before stealing a speech, but you gotta wonder which one of the students was actually awake for the speech.

Otherwise, I guess a suspension of some kind seems like a fair punishment, or maybe some other slap on the wrist sort of thing.

If you’re a student and you get caught plagiarizing, you get expelled.

Depends. You might just get suspended. But we’ve gone over this upthread. Did you read it? Tell the truth.

Aeon, ghost writers agree to have their work used that way.

Really depends I think- I have talked to professors who expressed frustration they had reported many students for plagiarism and most got off with nothing worse than writing a letter of apology.

He’s written more than 200 scientific publications, more than 50 review articles and 14 books

…or has he?

At the end of the day, it’s a “goodbye and good luck” speech and those things are mostly just a collection of dumb cliches anyway. So he nicked some material from a more interesting source, well, I hope it made the day a little more interesting for the students. OTOH, if the reason he’s done it is because after a lifetime in “publish or perish” circumstances he’s habitually resorting to this kind of “friendly borrowing”… well, I guess this is how you get found out.

I’m not up on academia so fill me in here - is it expected behavior that giving a speech taken from someone else is seriously unprofessional behavior, plagarism, and will get you fired? I’m surprised.

I’m pretty shocked. I can imagine a policy where they fail the class but don’t get suspended or even where they get a zero on the paper but still might pass the class. I can’t imagine just having them write a letter of apology. Where I teach, it’s an automatic 1-quarter suspension the first time it happens, a 1-year suspension the second time, and expulsion the third time.

I’ve taught at a university - a really, really bad university - where third year students were submitting essays that contained large slabs of unattributed paraphrases from wikipedia pages and expecting to get away with it. I failed them for it, of course, but the fact that they were doing it must mean that they had done it all through first and second year and never gotten pulled up. I had a look through the university’s policies on plagiarism and it was basically, if you (as an academic) were willing to climb through a mountain of red tape, you might possibly be allowed to ask the student to apologise and then resubmit a new essay. I was appalled but then it wasn’t the only thing about the place that appalled me by a long shot.

But you taught there anyway, you academic whore you!

Yeah, some places seem worried about being sued or whatever. I don’t know. But having been on the judiciary board that decides behavior cases (drunken idiocy, usually), I know that students often get less than they would outside of a university for certain crimes (or general poor behavior).

Given a choice between a) starving for my principles and b) forgetting I ever had any, I have recently discovered a wondrous new option, c) get the hell out of academia. ;)

Having lived for 9 months in Toronto, I feel competent enough to say “oh, Alberta” :D

Well, it isn’t plagiarism of academic work. But it certainly does send the wrong signals when the Dean cribs an an entire convocation speech. The apology and claim that he failed to attribute the source seems rather weak as well.

As people mentioned, since this isn’t an academic paper, the proper procedures are a little unclear. I wonder what the proper way to give somebody else’s speech is. I’ve never really heard of anybody straight up reading somebody else’s speech for an event like that (rather than quoting and referncing individual sections), although I’m sure it happens on occasion.

I assume you’d have to:

  1. get permission beforehand
  2. include an attribution in the program?