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.
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.