Will Harvard Law School Condemn Elizabeth Warren for Pow Wow Chow Plagiarism?

Will Harvard Law School Condemn Elizabeth Warren for Pow Wow Chow Plagiarism?

Breitbart reported on Friday that two of Elizabeth Warren’s recipe contributions to the 1984 Pow Wow Chow cookbook edited by her cousin included word for word copies of a 1979 article written for the New York Times News Service by famous French cook Pierre Franey. Sunday morning, attention turned to Harvard Law School, where Ms. Warren has been employed as a professor since 1992.

Plagiarism of an academic paper while employed by Harvard Law School, or while employed previously at another law school, would clearly be grounds for her dismissal under Harvard University’s code of conduct for professors.  But does plagiarism of a 1984 cookbook when she was 35 years old and employed as a research associate and teacher  at the University of Texas Law School constitute grounds for dismissal?

That’s the question I posed Sunday to Jack Marshall, a lawyer and nationally recognized expert on ethics. Mr. Marshall, who is the President of ProEthics, Ltd, a firm that provides Continuing Legal Education to some of the top law firms in the country, is also a 1972 graduate of Harvard College and a 1975 graduate Georgetown University Law School.

His blogpost, “The Significance of Pow Wow Chow,” published Saturday at his website, EthicsAlarm, caused a buzz in the conservative blogosphere over the weekend. In it he concluded:

I think the bad news emanating from “Pow Wow Chow” is that when you start with Warren’s willingness to exploit her distant Native American heritage even if it meant displacing other more deserving candidates, stir in her self-evident lie that she only listed herself as a Native American to find other Cherokees in that hotbed of Native American social life, Boston, and top it off with the Pow Wow Chow plagiarism, you get a recipe for a politician who is willing to lie, cheat, and manipulate to get what she wants.

Asked specifically this morning about the appropriate action to be taken by Harvard Law School in light of these revelations Mr. Marshall said:

Here’s the problem. It’s awfully tough for Harvard to establish a new standard of enforcement, especially for a female professor, especially when you’ve let a whole group of men get away with plagiarism in the recent past.

Harvard Law School should [issue a statement that publicly condemn[s] her and retroactively do a public mea culpa for past examples of plagiarism that other members of the faculty got away with. They can’t do anything other than publicly shame her, but that’s a start.

Harvard is professionally obligated to draw a strong line from this point going forward. The University should take a zero tolerance approach to any kind of plagiarism by professors past present, and future. They should make an unequivocal statement of zero tolerance for any publications or research involving plagiarism and not crediting the work of others. Tenured professors and all professors should be held to exactly the same standard, and it should be as high or higher than the standard of honesty and academic rigor demanded of students.

 Will they? Of course not. They’ve trapped themselves in their own sloth.

Earlier today, Breitbart’s Charles Johnson reported that Ms. Warren’s Pow Wow Chow cookbook plagiarism violated Harvard’s own standards.

Marshall, however, notes that “[Harvard is now in a position that ] it has to protect high profile professors who’ve engaged in plagiarism in the past.

 “There are two issues: Elizabeth Warren and institutional integrity. From an institutional integrity perspective, it appears that Harvard has surrendered the battle. Like Penn State and the Catholic Church, it appears to me that they’re just looking the other way in an effort to protect the institution, rather than to uphold the values and principles that their mission demands.”

Marshall pointed to the recent actions of Yahoo, which fired newly hired CEO Scott Thompson when it was discovered that his resume falsely indicated that he had graduated from Stonehill College with a degree in both accounting and computer science. As CNN reported on May 14:

Thompson’s published Yahoo bios — including the one in the company’s latest annual report, a legal document that CEOs must personally swear are truthful — have claimed that he holds a bachelor’s degree in both accounting and computer science from Stonehill College. His degree is actually in accounting only.

According to  Marshall, “the Yahoo! standard is the correct one.”

Marshall was particularly tough on Harvard, his alma mater:

Fish rots from the head down, which means that leaders must uphold the highest standards. This has to go double, triple, and quadruple for a university, and especially Harvard, which is the most prominent name in scholarship, because universities set the ethical standards for the next generation.  Warren was a professor [in 1984]. Academic integrity requires a special and enhanced level of checking sources and fair attribution, and she blew that off. If Harvard is going to send the essential message, in the middle of an epidemic of cheating—in academia and in the culture generally -that this is unacceptable , the only way to do it is to absolutely slam these people when they are caught red handed.

It troubles me that the university has a lower standard for its professors than for its students. If anything, it should be the opposite. Otherwise, all you’re telling students about cheating is to make sure they don’t get caught at it until they are successful enough to be protected by their institutions, status and reputations.

 It is a Harvard failing,  and she’s a beneficiary of it. If their standards are to be what they should be, they have to come down like a ton of bricks when one of their professors is exposed as having appropriated the work product of someone else…even in a cookbook.

 We have a culture that’s being shot through like Swiss cheese with cynicism and fraud. One of the great strengths of America is that it’s not corrupt to the core. We still look at corruption as an aberration, even as it is spreading. In many, perhaps most other cultures, that’s just not true any more.  When we get to the point that we don’t see anything wrong with lying and cheating, that’s when we’re really in trouble. This is why institutions like Harvard need to be at the front lines combatting corruption.

“It’s a character problem and academic flaw that Harvard can’t permit its professors to get away with.”

Marshall cited the famous case of plagiarism by Professor Laurence Tribe as an example of Harvard’s failure to uphold high academic standards.

Tribe in particular has apparently been slapping his name on books compiled from other sources in other books by his assistants. In one case, Tribe had farmed out his 1985 book, God Save This Honorable Court to a grad student, who copied extensive portions of it from Henry J. Abraham’s 1974 book on Supreme Court appointments, Justices and Presidents. Tribe never checked the source, put the book out on his own name because he didn’t do his due diligence, and ultimately had to admit years later that he had, in effect, published another author’s work as his own.

Another case, similar but not as egregious, involved Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogeltree, who included in his own book a long passage that was copied, verbatim and without attribution, from another scholar’s work.

In 2004 the Harvard Crimson reported on Professor Tribe’s admission of plagiarism in an article titled: Prof Admits to Misusing Source: Tribe’s Apology Marks Third Instance of HLS Citation Woes in Past Year”.

In that same article, the Crimson noted:

Tribe’s mea culpa comes just three weeks after another prominent Harvard faculty member–Climenko Professor of Law Charles J. Ogletree–publicly apologized for copying six paragraphs almost word-for-word from a Yale scholar in a recent book, All Deliberate Speed.

Ogletree is the same Harvard Law School professor who recently joked that he  hid the video of candidate Barack Obama praising Derek Bell until he was safely elected to the Presidency. As the Blaze reported on March 7:

Charles Ogletree, one of Obama’s mentors at Harvard Law School, has admitted to hiding the video made public by Breitbart.com today in order to protect Obama throughout the 2008 election campaign.

“Of course we hid this throughout the 2008 campaign,” Ogletree says. “I don’t care if they find it now.” 

Marshall concluded by stating that “if Harvard Law School really wants to address the problem they really need to start looking at the whole way academic books and treatises are written.”

Since this story broke over the weekend, calls and emails to Harvard Law School for comment have not yet been returned.

Michael Patrick Leahy is a Breitbart News contributor, Editor of Broadside Books’ Voices of the Tea Party e-book series, and author of Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement.


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