Tuesday, September 14, 2004

University of Newcastle's plagiarism scandal

Like the cases of Jarndyce v Jarndyce and the two co-creators of a reality TV format hit at loggerheads, the current ICAC investigation into the University of Newcastle's unsatisfactory handling of proven plagiarism by some of its students looks set to continue ad infinitum, or until the money runs out, anyway.

There is nothing new, or complex in the story. More than a year ago, Ian Firn, the whistleblowing academic at the centre of the story, said this: "Incredulity is the initial response of every academic to whom I tell this story. Derisive laughter is evoked when I tell them what the inquiry found."

At this stage, it is really not that important which inquiry – for there have been several – found what. The plain fact is that there has been a cover-up to the highest levels; the only worthwhile question remaining is what to do about it.

Not acknowledged at all in recent media reports in the highly salient (or so I would have thought) fact that current vice-chancellor Roger Holmes is leaving his seat in a few weeks' time, presumably for a cushy retirement.

Thus, all Roger the Dodger* needs to do right now is to hope that the ICAC investigation limps along until he sails off with his payout, and his reputation more-or-less intact. And with limping along being the operative word at the moment, Roger’s best-case script looks set to be the final draft.

Be that as it may, there are several other senior and/or key players in the cover-up who appear set to remain at the University of Newcastle. IMO, a prima facie case appears to exist for the summary dismissal, on the grounds of academic misconduct, of the following individuals:

Brian English, deputy vice-chancellor

Ronald MacDonald, deputy vice-chancellor of research and internationalisation**

Paul Ryder, the then head of the Newcastle Graduate School of Business, now keeping a low profile at the Central Coast School of Business

Rachid Zeffane, academic

Meanwhile another key player, Robert Rugimbana, the then deputy director of the Newcastle Graduate School of Business seems to have joined his former boss Paul Ryder in the slinking-off game – this time to Brisbane’s Griffith University.

For more reading, I recommend these previous posts (not on Newcastle specifically), and fellow blogger Tim Lambert, who has been following the scandal closely. I’m with Tim in assessing the best line to have come out of the scandal so far being that of (the once unfortunately-, but now aptly named) Ronald MacDonald, who said that it was beyond his capacity to judge plagiarism by business students because “I’m a physicist.” So there you go, science geeks: the case for anti-matter has just been conclusively proved to exist – inside the skull of Newcastle Uni’s Ronald MacDonald.

Running a close second, though, is the hilarious thought of "remedial training sessions" in plagiarism policy, which one of the previous inquiries recommended for several of the above academics. As an answer, apparently.

* Roger Holmes was once vice-chancellor of one of my previous employers, before packing it in after a few weeks, apparently because he didn't like the climate.

** Which is to say, Chalk and Cheese.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?