More Commencement Plagiarism

Apparently, while I was on vacation, I missed yet another plagiarism scandal involving a commencement address. This time,the scandal involves a school board principal giving a speech in Madison, New Jersey.

In this incident, according to the Madison Eagle newspaper, school board president Melissa Elias lifted the outline and several key phrases from a 1999 commencement speech given by Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. Anna Quindlen, as some may recall, was already plagiarized once before in a commencement address by a Cave Creek, Az. history teacher named Mark Sweeny.

However, where Sweeny has received no discipline, Elias has resigned her position amid a community firestorm of criticism. That criticism was capped off when, today, the school board on which she serves adopted a very strong statement saying, in part that it, “does not condone nor tolerate plagiarism within the Madison school community.” At the same meeting the board accepted her resignation. Both of the measures passed with a 5-0-1 vote with Elias abstaining.

It’s refreshing to see such a strong reaction from a school board on an issue involving plagiarism. Though most cases involving school officials plagiarizing works are greeted with disgust, they often times either result in no or inadequate punishment. This leaves many to wonder how students found guilty of plagiarism can be punished effectively when those in charge of them can get away with just a slap on the wrist.

But what makes this incident especially touching is how the community got involved, both in spotting and reporting the plagiarism and in standing firmly against it. Even the editor of the local paper wrote a scathing column against the abuse and subsequent apology.

That’s exactly the type of community effort PT is about and I’m grateful that, at least in one town, it’s already taking place. It definitely makes the weekend seem a lot brighter.

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