COMMENTARY: The Stain of Plagiarism by Dan Dimancescu (October 2015)
It is no no small concern that plagiarism has risen to the fore in Romanian politics. Of equal concern is that those in a position to confirm cases of plagiarism, i.e, university authorities issuing of higher degrees such as PhDs, are then denied that authority by the Ministry of Education.
The Associated Press (AP) reported in May 2012 that “Ponta’s first appointment as prime Minister was Corina Dumitrescu as Minister of Education, resigned after allegations that she had plagiarized in a book she had written on Romania’s introduction to the European Union (EU). Ponta’s second appointment, Ioan Mang, also was forced to resign after a short period due to allegations he had plagiarized various academic works.”
Then wrote the AP “things got worse for Ponta as allegations began to surface that he too had plagiarized, in his case it was his doctoral thesis in question. Ponta initially denied the allegations but later said that he “did not list authors at the bottom of each page, but put them in the bibliography at the end.” But it appears that Romania’s National Council for Certification of Titles, Diplomas and University Certificates (CNATDCU) disagrees with Ponta’s evaluation, finding that some 85 pages of the dissertation were copied without attribution and recommending that his doctorate be revoked.”
Plagiarism is corrosive to the foundation of any open society. In the case of public officials it does it by undermining the trust that is the intangible glue to any democratic process. Those who build careers on the false presumption of intellectual achievement – not the least of which was the truly evil Elena Ceausescu and her delusions of cumulating scientific credentials – subvert the public interest.
To understand the implications, one need only consider the analogy of a medical doctor plagiarizing his work. Would one trust his advice or his scalpel? In the corporate or serious journalistic world a faked cv or evidence of plagiarism is cause for immediate firing. One is reminded, too, that the plagiarist is not unlike the September 2015 bombshell scandal of VW car makers who lied about the performance of 11 million diesel cars. “Senate President Calin Popescu-Tariceanu considers that the Romanian state was cheated… ‘I believe that the Romanian state must act, as do other countries, e.g. Belgium to a civil party against Volkswagen,’ ” he was reported by hotnews to have declared.
Why not the same reaction to plagiarism offenses? In Romania Prime Ministers, Ministers, elected officials and others who hold a public ‘trust’ have been accused of misrepresenting their intellectual credentials.
As one observer wrote: “Ponta’s turning in his degree may be a move to save his political future, but it also ends the illusion of invincibility surrounding plagiarism in the country. It’s clear again that plagiarism has consequences and that impact will inevitably trickle down to other areas, including research, journalism and so forth.”
Names of senior government official which are headlined in the news may be the tip of an of iceberg in Romania. But there is one sign of hope. Under pressure from a new young and growing civic-minded activist society, the iceberg may melt.