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University of Alberta dean of medicine in midst of plagiarism scandal

Discussion in 'Jukwaa la Elimu (Education Forum)' started by m_kishuri, Jun 14, 2011.

  1. m_kishuri

    m_kishuri JF-Expert Member

    Jun 14, 2011
    Joined: Jan 27, 2010
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    When Philip Baker addressed the University of Alberta’s medical school graduates at a banquet last Friday, he had the audience hooked. The speech by the dean of the faculty was inspiring. To some, it was even familiar — smart phones in hand, they soon learned why.
    Prof. Baker is facing criticism and calls to resign after he admitted to lifting much of a speech delivered at the banquet from an American doctor’s graduation address at Stanford University last year, a talk that was later published in The New Yorker magazine.
    Graduates in attendance on Friday said they recognized the words dean Philip Baker was speaking and quickly searched a few phrases on their iPhones and BlackBerrys. One student’s brother found the speech on The New Yorker web site and followed along word for word.
    On Sunday, the dean issued an apology to students who had accused him of plagiarizing the speech, partially originally penned by Dr. Atul Gawande, a surgeon and writer for The New Yorker. In the address, the doctor spoke of his wife’s miscarriages, his daughter’s dislocated elbow and heart defect. He invented a medical term “velluvial matrix” — all elements Prof. Baker used and did not attribute.
    “[T]he basic theme of the talk — that of humility, has been overwhelmingly reinforced,” Prof. Baker wrote to students. “I hope you accept my heartfelt apology and although you may not be proud of me as the dean of your school, please know that I am very proud of all of you.”
    He said he has always lived up to the highest levels of academic integrity throughout a prolific career that has produced more than 200 scientific articles, 50 review articles and 14 books.
    He apologized to Dr. Gawande, too, remorse the high-profile doctor accepted, according to Prof. Baker’s letter. Dr. Gawande was unwilling to comment further on Monday.
    Students and members of the public, however, have not been as forgiving.
    “We were embarrassed and disappointed to find that Dean Baker had given a wonderful speech at our graduation banquet without attributing it to the original author,” said Brittany Barber, president of the 2011 graduating class. “People should know that we do not stand for academic dishonesty and our deepest wish is that this incident does not reflect poorly on the integrity of our class, the medical school, and ultimately the university.”
    On his CBC-hosted blog, Toronto-based doctor Brian Goldman called for the dean’s resignation, pointing to the student code of behaviour that condemns plagiarism. As a leader of the faculty he should not be exempt from the rules to which students abide, Dr. Goldman wrote.
    The incident sparked vigorous debate about whether the dean’s speech flub counts as serious academic misconduct.
    The act appears hypocritical, despite the dean’s best intentions, said Daniel Wueste, director of the Rutland Institute for Ethics at Clemson University in South Carolina.
    “It does send an unhappy message to the students who were there, because he could have so easily acknowledged the inspiration … of this speech that he read,” he said.
    Scott Anderson, an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia, drew a distinction between plagiarizing for a speech and doing it in academic work.
    “Taking someone else’s speech and passing it off as one’s own can show a bad sort of character with respect to honesty and academic integrity,” he said. “It would make me wonder whether someone who did that was playing by the rules in his or her scholarship, where this sort of thing has to be a firing offence.
    “But doing it for a light, hopefully inspirational, graduation speech is not by itself a serious enough breach of the rules of academic honesty to merit more than a wrist-slap, in my opinion.”
    University spokesperson Deb Hammacher said Prof. Baker drew the issue to their attention on his own, and the university will investigate. “The university certainly would not be asking for a resignation based on cries from the public,” she said. “Every person deserves due process, especially when you’re talking about their reputation and their career.”
    This is not the first time Prof. Baker has encountered problems during his time as dean of medicine at the U of A. The Canadian Association of University Teachers, a union that represents university staff, has set up an inquiry committee to look into a number of complaints about Prof. Baker from staff who alleged he was fuelling a “growing climate of uncertainty, mistrust and fear,” by taking part in insider hiring practices and bringing in new management models that staff did not like.
    Ms. Hammacher said she is aware of the complaints but dismissed them as irrelevant to the current controversy facing the dean.
    Requests to speak with Prof. Baker directly were declined.

    NB: This dude should resign right away!!!!! Yaani atawezaje kuwaambia wanafunzi wake wasiplagiarize wakati he was doing the same thing.