Previously I talked about a University of Missouri-Kansas City dean who was caught plagiarizing his commencement address from another one a decade earlier. It was a sad tale, but it left some unanswered questions. most interestingly, how was he caught?
Since he gave the speech in question over two years ago, it seemed as if he’d gotten away clean. However, it turns out that a Chapel Hill, North Carolina woman, while researching the 18th century philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, spotted the plagiarism and took action.
Just more testament to the power of Google.
To me, what’s interesting about this tale is that the woman in question, Sally Greene, never intended to stop plagiarism when she did her search. The outcome was entirely accidental.
However, where most people would have simply noticed the similarity and gone about their search, Greene took action. She notified the office of the original author and then contacted a reporter at The Chronicle of Higher Education to let them know what she’d discovered. The story from there went on to be a national news event and a major embarrassment to both dean LeBeau and UMKC.
Personally, I’m thrilled to see such action being taken. Though I have no desire to see everyone in the world become the copyright police, many have run across things that were stolen and few have taken any action. I first discovered my plagiarism problem from an altruistic reader and I know that such “awakenings” are required to snap other copyright holders into alignment with reality.
After all, most people don’t seem to realize that there is a problem, much less the severity of it. A few good Samaritans could change that very quickly.