ASU professor brings back spotlight on plagiarism

Posted Jul 24, 2015 by Robert Lawson
Author and educator Matthew Whitaker is once again accused of plagiarizing. Technology is making plagiarism easier to catch and easier to commit.
Plagiarism satire protest
Plagiarism satire protest
Author and Arizona State University professor Matthew Whitaker is coming under fire yet again for apparently plagiarizing Wikipedia in a textbook. This is not the first major allegation of plagiarism for the professor who was demoted to associate professor by ASU after a university-sanctioned investigation.
In 2011, Whitaker was accused by several colleagues of plagiarism. According to AZ Central, an investigation by the university at that time “determined he had not committed ‘systematic or substantial plagiarism.’” It was Whitaker’s 2014 book, Peace Be Still: Modern Black American from World War II to Barack Obama, that led to his demotion. After accusations of plagiarism and investigation by the university, he was demoted to associate professor.
The accusations began after someone compared text of the book to websites containing similar information. In a detailed article published on Inside Higher Ed, excerpts of his book were shown compared to various websites. The results showed not only poor paraphrasing, but even word-by-word exact matches.
Whitaker and others who plagiarize should be mindful that detecting plagiarism is easier than it used to be. Most plagiarism detection software has been limited to typing in text or copy and pasting from Microsoft Word. However, some companies now allow comparison using .pdf, .docx, .odt and .html documents. Simply upload or copy and paste from these documents. Something that Whitaker should keep in mind if he decides to write another book.
Plagiarism by professors in academia is not new, but Whitaker sure has brought it to light thanks to his second offense of such conduct (known second offense). Wikipedia, one of the websites that Whitaker is accused of plagiarizing, has a list of these incidents ranging from academia incidents to politics and journalism.
Plagiarism continues to plague our education system and must be watched carefully. Passing off someone else’s work as your own takes away your ability to be considered an expert or thought leader.