Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fudan University Under Fire for its Plagiarism Decision

The controversial decision by Fudan University's Committee of Scholarly Standard that Professor Zhu Xueqin did not commit plagiarism in his Ph. D. thesis continues to draw attention on the Internet forums in China. Several print media also published reports questioning if the academic community in China is capable of policing itself.

Fang Zhouzi publishes more examples of Zhu Xueqin's thesis that were translated from Carol Blum's published book, including many "low-level mistakes" in misunderstanding and misinterpreting the original in English.

More damagingly, however, is an open letter published by more than a dozen of netters from an Internet forum where netter "Isaiah" raised his initial accusation. The authors of this open letter expressed their opinion that Zhu Xueqin had committed plagiarism "even by the loosest standard" and their worry that Fudan University's "partial and contradictory" conclusion could lead to a big setback in China's academic integrity.

The lengthy open letter disputes Fudan's claim that they do not accept anonymous leads, pointing out that they had indeed taken up cases originated from anonymous sources in the past. It also claimed that the investigation chose to narrow its scope so as to avoid the most damaging accusations being raised and its conclusion is self-contradictory. The Committee's spokesperson Professor Ge Jianxiong had said that they did not investigate the entire thesis (because it was out of the scope of the investigation) but nevertheless announced that the thesis "as a whole" was an adequate academic work.

The open letter also questions the Committee's verdict that Zhu Xueqin's thesis indeed contained "irregularities". It states that even the few "irregularities" listed by Ge Jianxiong as examples should have already qualified the work to be classified as plagiarism according to the common sense and norm of academic standards.

Finally, the open letter points out that plagiarism is plagiarism, even when the original author had granted permission to use his work. Zhu Xueqin's thesis had included passages from other scholar's work without citation, a practice that the Fudan Committee appeared to have found acceptable.

The open letter has by now received more than 200 signatories, including more than 30 with real names.

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