An Open Letter to the President of Columbia University: Plagiarism is an Academic Crime

By Robbin Laird

I remember the excitement with which I entered Columbia University and started my studies which led to a PhD in Political Science. I loved my time at Columbia where I met a number of interesting students, many foreign, and studied with several first rate scholars. When it came time to write my dissertation, I chose a very un-dissertation like topic, namely shaping a way to understand historical change.

To say the least it was original; probably too much so. Yet the work done on that effort has provided a solid framework for understanding strategic developments, no more so than now as we enter yet another period of profound global change.

But none of this would have been possible without doing original research and asking fundamental questions a process supported by a premier global strategist, Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, and a premier political theorist, Dr. Herbert Dean.

So it is with profound sadness that I learn that a recent political appointee who is a graduate of Columbia University paved her way to success by publishing a dissertation and then a book with plagiarized materials.

“Monica Crowley, President-Elect Donald J. Trump’s pick for a top National Security Council job, numerous passages in her Ph.D. dissertation, Politico Magazine has found.

An examination of the dissertation and the sources it cites identified more than a dozen sections of text that have been lifted, with little to no changes, from other scholarly works without proper attribution. In some instances, Crowley footnoted her source but did not identify with quotation marks the text she was copying directly. In other instances, she copied text or heavily paraphrased with no attribution at all.”

Harper Collins has pulled her book from the bookshelves, “until she makes revisions”. This is a nice way of saying that her book contains plagiarized materials.

Columbia University needs to take significant action as well.

The University should rescind her PhD and administratively punish her dissertation advisor and her dissertation committee.

Nothing less can restore the credibility of Columbia University.

After all the University does not want to be perceived to have as much credibility as CNN.

And if the leadership of Columbia University is confused about what plagiarism is all about then can look at their own library for this definition:

Derived from the Latin word plagiarius ( “kidnapper”), plagiarism refers to a form of cheating that has been defined as “the false assumption of authorship: the wrongful act of taking the product of another person’s mind and presenting it as one ’s own” (Alexander Lindey, Plagiarism and Originality [New York, Harper, 1952] 2).

Plagiarism involves two kinds of wrongs.

Using another person’s ideas, information, or expressions without acknowledging that person’s work constitutes intellectual theft.

Passing off another person’s ideas, information, or expressions as your own to get a better grade or gain some other advantage constitutes fraud.

Plagiarism is sometimes a moral and ethical offense rather than a legal one since some instances of plagiarism fall outside the scope of copyright infringement, a legal offense. (Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook. 6th ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2003. 66.)


This piece first appeared on Breaking Defense.

Strip Trump’s NSC Spox Of Her Thesis: Open Letter To Columbia University

Bookmark this article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *