After being exposed as a plagiarist, a PhD student at the Humanities Faculty was given a second chance, but he committed plagiarism again in his revised dissertation.
As the Doctorate Board was divided on the issue, the University’s Academic Integrity Commission was forced to decide in the end: the PhD student had committed plagiarism and must leave.
"It’s a sad business for him and it’s annoying for the faculty", remarks Wim van den Doel, the Dean of Humanities. "But on the other hand, I’m glad the procedures worked."
In his first version, submitted in 2011, the PhD student had copied parts of other people’s work without listing his sources. The plagiarism, some "forty excerpts" taken from scientific papers and film reviews, was discovered by a member of the Opposition Committee, while other fraudulent passages were found using SafeAssign, the plagiarism program. Both the Doctorate Board and the Council of Deans intervened.
At that point, the PhD student was given a second chance because "maybe his actions were influenced by his cultural background (...) and perhaps supervision was lacking." Copying without listing sources is allegedly "not uncommon" in the PhD student’s country of origin.
However, the second version still contained instances of plagiarism. Nevertheless, Van den Doel, who, as the Dean, is the Chairman of all Doctorate Boards, insists that it is "a difficult case. If someone copies a book, it’s plagiarism. But there’s a grey area where it’s not clear whether the case is serious enough to qualify as a breach of academic integrity." This issue divided the Doctorate Board. "It’s a doctoral thesis containing certain problematic sections. However, the data was plagiarised, not the analysis, which is original. I thought myself that it was quite clear-cut."
The Academic Integrity Commission’s recommendations reveal that a number Doctorate Board members set great store by the thesis’ "new insights and opinions".
Nevertheless, the Academic Integrity Commission is quite clear: both versions contain instances of plagiarism: sections copied without adequate reference to sources were found on the Internet and in other published studies.
The PhD student, writing to the Academic Integrity Commission, declares that he acted without thinking but did not intentionally commit plagiarism. He says he had made notes from passages from other fields of research so that he could improve his understanding of how to conduct research. And although he knew he wasn’t allowed to use them, a number of these texts ended up in the manuscript without reference to the sources – poor preparation, claims the PhD student. However, he did not appear at the hearing of the Academic Integrity Commission.
A number of passages traced using SafeAssign were altered in the second version, but not all. The sections observed by the member of Opposition Committee had been altered, but the same member discovered new problem cases in the second version and even resigned from the Committee.
The Commission is of the opinion that the PhD student’s cultural background should not be taken into consideration because, by choosing Leiden to take his PhD, he is subject to the rules of this university. Accordingly, the Commission decided that academic integrity has been breached, sufficient reason to terminate the doctorate process definitely, even if a third ‘squeaky clean" version were to be submitted. The Commission states that there is "an irreparable breach of trust between the doctoral candidate and the Doctorate Board."
Things have also gone very wrong at the Institute for Educational and Child Studies too now. It is highly likely that a student on the Master's programme for Education and Child Studies will be expelled due to "serious fraud". The Examination Committee refuses to say who the student is and what he or she has done.
"The procedure is still pending and that means we can’t comment", explains Carien Nelissen, the Committee’s secretary. "The student may still lodge an appeal; this is not the right time to discuss it."