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ScHmITt hits the fan
March 28, 2012 12:53 AM   Subscribe

An expert committee has found that the President of Hungary, Dr. Pál Schmitt, is not guilty of plagiarism, despite extensive parts of his doctoral thesis being copied from multiple sources. The fault, the committee claims, was not his, but that of his supervisors. The Contrarian Hungarian and The Hungarian Spectrum have detailed analysis of the allegations and the committee’s report, while the Urban Dictionary has coined a new term in honor of the scandal. Other European politicians have faced with similar claims recently with differing results.
posted by vac2003 (34 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
This smells like bullshit.
The committee said that from page 34 to 50, the thesis is completely identical to a paper written by German sports sociologist Klaus Heinemann, and another 180 pages are partly identical to a paper written by the Bulgarian scholar, Nikolay Georgiev.

The committee also pointed to the lack of proper citations or bibliography and other significant lapses.

The “split decision” by the committee boils down to a recognition that Schmitt’s thesis was flawed, but that the responsibility for this lies with the former Sports University rather than Schmitt.

“If not an irregularity, it was certainly a formal mistake that the thesis is generally characterized by the insufficiency and lack of referencing which the supervisor at the time and the assessors of the thesis should have pointed out during the preparatory phase and in the pre-assessment,” the report said. The Sports University made a mistake by not revealing these shortcomings and leading the writer to believe that the thesis met the requirements, it added.
It's clearly plagiarism, based on these findings. Sure, the committee should have caught it, but the fact that the material was taken from someone else's work without attribution is still Schmitt's doing. We're seriously to believe that a Ph.D. student doesn't know when he's cutting and pasting someone else's words into his own paper? Schmitt has never encountered the concept of plagiarism before? Sounds like a cheap way for the committee to allow him to save face. And in doing so, the committee compounds the scandal.
posted by darkstar at 1:00 AM on March 28, 2012 [9 favorites]


Well in my opinion, it's clearly plagiarism, based on these findings. The committee should have caught it, but the taking the material from someone else's work without attribution is still Schmitt's doing. We're really to believe that a Ph.D. student doesn't know when he's cutting and pasting someone else's words into his own thesis? Schmitt has never encountered the idea of plagiarism before? Sounds like a cheap way for the committee to allow him to avoid disgrace. And in doing so, the committee makes things worse.
posted by ianso at 1:26 AM on March 28, 2012 [14 favorites]


I hate to say this but I've seen this as a pattern among academics in less well known language regions imagining that nobody will discover the translation or direct lift.
posted by infini at 1:30 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


This isn't surprising, Saddam Hussein wore a handgun on his belt during his final exam for law school. Don't hate the despot, hate the game...
posted by Drumhellz at 1:36 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, it seems to me that based on these findings it is clearly plagiarism. It should have been caught it by the committee, but the taking the material from another person else's work without attribution is still Schmitt's responsible for doing it. We're really to seriously to believe that a Ph.D. student is not knowing when he's cutting and pastinging someone else's words into his own paper? Schmitt has never met with the idea of plagiarism before? Sounds like a way that does not cost much for the committee to allow him to save face. And in doing so, the committee mixes up the scandal.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:37 AM on March 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's good to be the king president, I guess.

What a total douche-canoe. And the committee is a bunch of craven, corrupt cowards.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:39 AM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


On a closely related subject, Paul Krugman has been lending space on his blog to Kim Lane Scheppele who has done yeowomans work on documenting the scarily totalitarian changes that Fidesz, the Hungarian ruling party, has wrought on their constitution. It's not inconceivable that Hungary could become a one-party state in the near future.
posted by ianso at 1:42 AM on March 28, 2012


Well, based on these findings it seems to me that it is clearly plagiarism. It should have certainly been caught by the committee, but the taking of material without attribution from someone else's work is still the responsibility of Schmitt. Are we really seriously to believe that a Ph.D. student is not knowing when he's cutting and pasting someone else's words into his own paper? Has Schmitt never met with the concept of plagiarism before? This all sounds like a low-cost way for the committee to allow him to not be embarrassed. And by doing so, the committee increases the scandal.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:46 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wish you every success in your future political career, Joe. But do remember to shred the notes.
posted by Abiezer at 1:47 AM on March 28, 2012


And here I thought I was just seeing double.
posted by infini at 1:51 AM on March 28, 2012


"ScHmITt hits the fan"? No way this is the first use of that little pun...
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:10 AM on March 28, 2012


I hate to say this but I've seen this as a pattern among academics in less well known language regions imagining that nobody will discover the translation or direct lift.

Not just academics. Plenty of journalists (and not just in small language regions) appear to believe that making a (bad) translation of a foreign article qualifies as "journalism". I liked to quip that, if you want to read "The Economist" in your own language, you just had to wait a few days, but nowadays this is just as valid for the "Mail Online".
posted by Skeptic at 2:14 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.
-Dick Nix(on)
posted by karathrace at 2:35 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


"We find that these athletes were using performance-enhancing drugs at the Olympics, but since the referees should have caught them and didn't, we won't rescind their gold medals."
posted by erniepan at 2:42 AM on March 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


I hate to say this but I've seen this as a pattern among academics in less well known language regions imagining that nobody will discover the translation or direct lift.

Is it academics in general, or people getting advanced degrees as a stepping-stone towards a political or administrative career? In the US, there seems to be a bit of difference between the two groups, not sure about in Europe.

The “split decision” by the committee boils down to a recognition that Schmitt’s thesis was flawed, but that the responsibility for this lies with the former Sports University rather than Schmitt.

Isn't this a bit like saying "that thief isn't guilty, because the police didn't catch him sooner?"
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:49 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


PS. I'm moving to Hungary to pursue all sorts of PhDs. Nuclear physics, here I come.
posted by karathrace at 2:59 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it academics in general, or people getting advanced degrees as a stepping-stone towards a political or administrative career? In the US, there seems to be a bit of difference between the two groups, not sure about in Europe.

In Europe, PhD is highly valued in less academic circles and until the import of the MBA, one of the qualifications that helped you up your career ladder afaik from my recent two year stint at an European University. But I've documented plagiarism in putative "professor types" as well.
posted by infini at 3:24 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh come onnnn. Over 200 pages of direct ripoff without attribution? You have to be the stupidest grad student to ever wander the university halls of Europe not to know you're a cheater of the worst kind. Of the commitee, I could believe it, sometimes they get a handful of overworked external guys with only secondary specialization in the subject, and that barely manage to browse through the lengthy boring mess before deadline to issue evaluation is on them.
posted by Iosephus at 4:11 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sports University?
posted by jayder at 5:22 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Iosephus: Of the commitee, I could believe it, sometimes they get a handful of overworked external guys with only secondary specialization in the subject, and that barely manage to browse through the lengthy boring mess before deadline to issue evaluation is on them.
There's that. And there's also the other bit where Schmitt's two advisors were in a subservient position to him (effectively, his employees) outside the university, where he was president of the country's Olympic Committee, and they board-members. There are levels of cronyism and forms of obligation here we can't even begin to unpack.
posted by Sonny Jim at 6:17 AM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, like USC or Penn State.
posted by notyou at 6:18 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Paul Krugman has been lending space on his blog to Kim Lane Scheppele who has done yeowomans work on documenting the scarily totalitarian changes that Fidesz, the Hungarian ruling party, has wrought on their constitution

Thanks for that. Scheppele's response to the Hungarian ambassador's objection to her work is a good quick summary of the constitutional changes being railroaded through:

Third, on the judiciary....The new law on the judiciary allows any judge currently in the ordinary courts to be reassigned to another court upon the sole decision of the head of the National Judicial Office. Can you please tell me what procedures there are for a judge to contest such a reassignment under the new system? Can you please point out what criteria the head of the National Judicial Office must apply in making such reassignments? If there are no criteria or procedures in place, then it is not at all fanciful to imagine that political or other inappropriate criteria may be used in such decisions. What is to stop such a thing from happening? And what can a judge do if he believes that he is being reassigned for political reasons? Neither the constitution nor the new law on the judiciary lays out what such standards and procedures are. Is there another law that does this? Again, I am happy to be educated on this point, but I haven’t found any such guarantees in the existing laws.

In addition, the constitutional addendum passed today (Friday, 30 December) permits both the head of the National Judicial Office and the public prosecutor to assign cases for resolution to any judge in the country. The constitutional court declared this sort of governmental involvement in case assignments to be unconstitutional, which is why I suspect your government decided to put this option directly into the constitution itself. But once political officials can choose which judge can hear each case, judicial independence is over.

posted by mediareport at 6:23 AM on March 28, 2012


Ah, missed the thread about Hungary's constitutional changes in January.
posted by mediareport at 6:34 AM on March 28, 2012


Wow, all those aggressive top-down executive decisions on the whim an idiot with false credentials... Europe really does follow every American trend ten years later!
posted by Mooseli at 6:38 AM on March 28, 2012


At least when I become a proto-dictator, smashing opposition and fanning the flames of oppression towards minority groups and anyone who just doesn't like me, I will rest easily knowing that my dissertation was really my own work.
posted by kaibutsu at 6:50 AM on March 28, 2012


At least when I become a proto-dictator, smashing opposition and fanning the flames of oppression towards minority groups and anyone who just doesn't like me, I will rest easily knowing that my dissertation was really my own work
I think that disqualifies you, kaibutsu. To be a shady Eurocrat of Schmitt proportions, you need to demonstrate that you're an all-round scumbag. Writing your own dissertation won't get you past the door with these people.
posted by Sonny Jim at 6:57 AM on March 28, 2012



Well in my opinion, it's clearly plagiarism, based on these findings. The committee should have caught it, but...


See, the mods haven't come in and specifically told them it's not OK, so they're all golden.
posted by tyllwin at 8:26 AM on March 28, 2012


I would try to feign outrage, but in my somewhat considerable experience academic fraud is just part of the game. I do not condone plagiarism, especially in one's dissertation, but to think this PhD applicant did this all on his own is naive. He was probably pushed by his corrupt PhD supervisors to do exactly what they did to move ahead. So the judgment does seem 'off' to people like us until you see what happened behind the scenes. I absolutely believe in this judgment as I have personally experienced coercion by supervisors to get the p value better and "make it more publishable". And these are the ones that a new generation of academicians and scientists look up to? I've withdrawn my name from anything published that I did not feel was ethical and I had people gladly take that third or fourth name. That was my stand and I saw exactly who my colleagues were. And then I see the CVs of the cheaters who literally have 100 pages of CV documenting their bullshit research.

Absolutely not giving a pass on the plagiarism, but intelligent people can also be forced into things that they would not do by "the system" and their supervisors.
posted by WilliamMD at 10:16 AM on March 28, 2012


If you look at some of the details of how his 'dissertation' was actually accepted then there are grounds for outrage. The entire process took only one month, there was no record of a preliminary outline of his work, and there is no record of the written opinion of the examiners. Odd. And all this from someone who is now Head of State who should in theory represent the highest standards of both public and private probity. His lack of any sense of wrong doing by either admitting his actions, or resigning from office, add to the sense of outrage many Hungarians feel.
posted by vac2003 at 12:43 PM on March 28, 2012


And when you take a look and realize that this PhD candidate was basically a pawn, someone that his supervisors could use for the next twenty years to fake and plagiarize just to keep their high hats on, it's pretty obvious. It could just be the case of a poor bright student who came from nothing and was told by his PhD supervisors that he had to lie and plagiarize so he could get on faculty somewhere. It's still wrong, but if the court feels his supervisors were more at fault, I believe it. Otherwise he'd have been slaughtered.
posted by WilliamMD at 1:23 PM on March 28, 2012


It could just be the case of a poor bright student who came from nothing and was told by his PhD supervisors that he had to lie and plagiarize so he could get on faculty somewhere. It's still wrong, but if the court feels his supervisors were more at fault, I believe it. Otherwise he'd have been slaughtered.

Except he was the head of the Olympic Committee at the time and his supervisors were basically his employees, so he was hardly a pawn in their hands.
posted by daniel_charms at 1:40 PM on March 28, 2012


Latest reports indicate that the university senate of Semmelweis University has decided to strip Schmittof his degree. The vote was 33-4 in favor, the reason: lack of scientific work behind the doctoral thesis. The Chicago Tribune is also reporting that the leading right-wing paper and generally regarded as 'government-friendly', Magyar Nemzet, wrote in its editorial,

"It is our belief that his staying is also against his own interests," the paper wrote in an editorial. "This is a losing battle. The destruction of the institution and the crumbling of faith in an honorable public life cannot be stopped like this."

Can't be too much longer before he resigns....
posted by vac2003 at 2:38 PM on March 29, 2012


I'd like to thank the posters in this thread for inspiring my first use of MeFi in class today. I was trying to teach my engineers (in a college technical writing course) what an illegitimate paraphrase was, and I had a boring example...and then I read this thread. Anyway, thanks for making class funnier and more bearable for a bunch of engineers (and me) today.

My projector also exploded in class today, but I don't think the two things were related...
posted by ilana at 3:20 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


For the record, if nothing else, Schmitt eventually resigned on 2 April 2012.
posted by vac2003 at 12:57 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


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