Plagiarist’s University Issues Criticism …of the Whistleblower


Last month we learned how philosophy professor Michael V. Dougherty (Ohio Dominican) and his students discovered and reported that Peter J. Schulz, a Professor of Communication in the Faculty of Communication Sciences at the University of Lugano (also known as Università della Svizzera italiana, or USI), plagiarized the work of philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny and Pope John Paul II. 

About a week later, I added an update to the original post about USI’s reply, but it may not have been noticed by many. Here is the update:

Schulz’s employer, the University of Lugano (also known as Università della Svizzera Italiana or USI) says there will be no new investigation of Schulz’s academic misbehavior. “The case in question—reads a note—falls within the period and in the methods already taken into consideration in the context of the investigation that the USI conducted, concluded and made public in August 2016,” reports Tio.

The University also appears to cast aspersions on Michael Dougherty, who brought the plagiarism to light and who regularly investigates and studies plagiarism in philosophy (I say “appears to” as I am not sure of the quality of the translation I’m reading): “the source of these reports is always the same: the fury with which this person proceeds requires a certain caution in acting and an accurate assessment of the good foundation of the continuous ‘complaints.’” I’m familiar with several of Dougherty’s interventions into academic integrity and I’d say his thorough and measured approach suggests not “fury” but diligence. If this report about the university’s comments about Dougherty is correct, it is very disappointing.

Now, Retraction Watch has a post on USI’s statement with a different translation that appears to confirm the university’s criticism of Dougherty, though the university is careful to just refer to “this person,” rather than name him. They further report that Federica De Rossa Gisimundo, head of the Ethics Committee at Lugano, “declined to comment” on whether the university’s statement refers to Dougherty. It’s unclear who else they could mean, though.

Here is Dougherty’s comment on the university’s response:

I worry that potential future whistleblowers might now be discouraged from reporting of evidence of suspected scientific misconduct to the Ethics Committee. The university is apparently willing to try to besmirch the reputation of a whistleblower rather than acknowledge the growing number of deficient articles appearing under the University of Lugano’s institutional affiliation. The best universities encourage whistleblowing for cases of suspected scientific misconduct and they affirm that taking reprisals against whistleblowers is itself a form of misconduct.

Professor Dougherty’s work on plagiarism in philosophy (example here) is a valuable service, and there is no evidence that he approaches his work with anything but thorough professionalism. USI’s attempt to smear him is bizarre and unbefitting an institution of higher education.

 

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