Three Publications Investigate Plagiarism
A Harvard sophomore has been investigated by three campus publications following allegations of plagiarism-investigations that have led to her being forced from the staffs of both of Harvard's newspapers.
Allegations of plagiarism against Irina Serbanescu '03 began 10 days ago when a reader notified the Harvard Independent that the lead paragraph of the an article in its April 5 issue exactly matched a portion of an opinion piece published in Forbes in 1999.
Serbanescu's article, the first article of the issue dated April 5, began with a 147-word quote from Forbes magazine with no attribution.
By that night, the Indy had pulled the disputed article from their website and replaced it with an editor's note which explained that the story had been retracted "due to questions of integrity [and that t]he matter is currently under investigation."
According to Indy editors, they fired Serbanescu after a meeting the next day. Serbanescu, however, said she intended to resign from the publication before the meeting.
"We verified that the duplication was accurate, and it was," said Indy Managing Editor Alexander P. Nyren '02. "It's unclear why this happened, and it was clearly unacceptable."
Serbanescu said her first draft of the article had quotation marks around the offending passage, although it did not include a citation of Forbes.
"It was never meant to be included in that form," Serbanescu said.
Nyren, on the other hand, said there was no indication that the writing was not Serbanescu's.
"There were quotation marks in other paragraphs, but none in the first," he said.
Serbanescu and Nyren agree that she never saw a final version of the article, although Nyren said that is normal editing procedure at the Indy.
"We double-checked that she was comfortable with it running in the form she submitted it," he said, adding that this is also part of editing procedure.
Srinivas Ayyagari, the Indy's publisher, said the newspaper sent a letter of apology to Forbes magazine last week.
After the Independent allegations surfaced, The Crimson began an investigation into articles Serbanescu had written for the Arts section.
Serbanescu resigned from The Crimson Sunday, after a meeting to discuss the results of the investigation, which found that portions of at least four of her Arts articles had been plagiarized from reviews published elsewhere previously.
The Crimson published a retraction of the articles yesterday.
Serbanescu said that her writing process contributed to the unattributed quotes. She said that she begins writing by finding sources on the Internet, and then constructing a "skeleton" of the article she intends to write from those Internet sources.
"I wrote around those sources," she said, adding that she would sometimes paraphrase, sometimes quote and sometimes comment on the material she found.
"I now realize that the way I wrote was prone to unattributed sources," she said.
Serbanescu writes for two other campus publications, the Harvard International Review (HIR) and the Harvard Book Review.
"My trying to juggle four publications contributed to not being able to do a good job on each and every article," Serbanescu said.
HIR is conducting an investigation into the two articles Serbanescu wrote for the journal, said Editor Paven Malhotra '02.
Serbanescu resigned from the HIR staff following discussions with Malhotra and other editors on Sunday.
"She thought it was the best action to take at the moment," he said.
Malhotra said the allegations had come as a surprise to HIR staff members and described Serbanescu as a "hard-working and loyal staff member."
Serbanescu also resigned from the Book Review on Sunday after meeting with editors last week to discuss her status.
The Book Review is not planning an investigation into her writings at this time, said Book Review Publisher Antoinette C. Nwandu, who is also a Crimson executive.
Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 declined to say whether Serbanescu might face Administrative Board action for the plagiarism.
-Staff writer Garrett M. Graff can be reached at email@example.com.