And so it goes….

It seems that I spend my Sunday posts sharing doom and gloom. This week is, sadly, no exception.

A university creative writing lecturer, one Joanne Benford, has been caught plagiarising.

I’m going to let that sink in for a second.

While I fully expect to see this sort of thing from students and other folk who don’t know better, Ms Benford is a lecturer in creative writing with the Open University – a university that has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to plagiarism.

It’s not often I have to give a disclaimer, but I need to do so now. I studied at the OU, and I took some of the courses that Ms Benford teaches. HOWEVER, and I need to stress this, due to the regional way the OU works local tutors take local students, so, while she taught a course I took, she did not teach my course or me at any point. I do not know her and have no association with her.

So, back to the story of the day.

Basically it seems that Ms Benford has been copying work from other writers and publishing it as her own. Those writers include Dylan Thomas and Alex Keegan – both of which were copied extensively.

You can read about it here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/9347317/Open-University-lecturer-under-investigation-after-publishing-a-Dylan-Thomas-story-under-her-own-name.html

Now, there have been lots of cases of plagiarism lately, but this one is different. What really bothers me about it that the person in question was in a position of power, of knowledge and really has no excuse.

It bothers me because I studied there. I took those courses. This sort of thing not only tarnishes the reputation of the person in question, but every student who ever studied under them.  Everyone who is associated with them.

The plagiarism has, according to the Telegraph, been going on for over 20 years. Which raises several questions – How the hell did no one spot it? and What the hell was she thinking?

As a lecturer she should have known better. Plagiarism is, however, not a criminal matter, but a civil one. That said, surely she should have realised the impact it would have on her suitability to do her job. I mean, if a creative writing tutor is caught plagiarising and gets away with it, what sort of example is that setting?

But, and perhaps Ms Benford didn’t think this at the time, when an academic is caught plagiarising it calls into question all of their work. You can be sure that someone, somewhere, is now sitting down with all of her published work and checking it. But not just that, her PhD, her MA…..I mean, if she can steal other people’s work for profit, what’s to stop her stealing it for grades?

The whole thing has just left a bit of sour taste in my mouth folks, and I really don’t think I need to say much more.

 

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “And so it goes….

  1. “Dr Benford could not be reached for comment yesterday” – yes I’m sure she couldn’t. What a disgrace to the profession and seriously, how has no one picked this up before? It’d be interested to see how many sales she has had.
    Great post 🙂

    • Alex Keegan

      I think it went undiscovered because many of the plagiarised items were “hidden inside” collections that were self-published and some were renamed. (Though my own “Postcards” story was also published by People’s Friend under JB’s name.)

      It hit the fan when she began “excerpting her works” (ie the best bits) but these best bits were my Postcards, Dylan Thomas etc

  2. Alex Keegan

    Claire, the earliest plagiarisms were “hidden in” self-published “collections” (a new meaning to the term) and various poems were renamed. Some of the works were by dead and long-dead authors, or were relatively unknown pieces. For example, I had never seen the Dylan Thomas “Holiday” piece and I’m a fan of Thomas’s work.

    To discover these thefts you would need to have bought the collections and spotted them, and that’s incredibly unlikely.

    But then Benford started EXCERPTING “her best bits” and selling them as “singles” to drum up extra business (she also offered her stuff on Facebook to (some) OU students (March 21st 2012)

    One single was DT, another was mine (Postcards From BalloonLand) and it was spotted by a former Boot Camp student who thought I had published it under an assumed name.

    My work appeared in “Coming Up for Air” (HB. PB, eBook) and “The Ring Series” (HB, PB,eBook) AND as a Kindle Single and (the worst bit) was dumbed down a bit more and published in The People’s Friend Annual 2003

    • Alex, thanks for the comment – I’m sure this is a horrible thing to be going through and hopefully it will all get sorted soon.

      As a side note – I’ve noticed that Benford has started to pull her ‘work’ offline, which isn’t really surprising. I’ll certainly be interested to see what she says about it, if she says anything at all.

      • Alex Keegan

        Claire, the plagiarism of my own stuff wasn’t that big a deal until she began lying to me by email and then I discovered that she was an OU Tutor and the full extent and time-period of her thefts.

        Best

        Alex

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