A popular teacher who was a Carnegie Foundation professor of the year has publicly apologized to her Williams College students and colleagues for plagiarizing paragraphs from a book review.
"What I have learned from this episode is that overcommitment is as much of a vice as undercommitment," Rosemarie Tong, a philosophy and ethics professor, said in the three-page apology published Wednesday in The Williams Record.
Paragraphs from a book review in The New Republic magazine were inadvertently slipped, without attribution, into a speech Tong gave in September at Greenwich High School in Connecticut, Williams spokesman James G. Kolesar said Thursday.
He said the unattributed material was in a pile of notes Tong and helpers quickly pasted together for the speech, which she gave, unrehearsed, at the high school. The review, originally published in May, concerned Allan Bloom's controversial book, "The Closing of the American Mind."
Teachers reportedly complained to the high school's headmaster the following day. In preparation for the professor's speech, school members had read various material on the book, and some had read the magazine review.
Tong issued a formal apology to the high school and returned the honorarium when the plagiarism was called to her attention. She also notified the Williams dean of the faculty, who officially reprimanded her for failing to use proper attribution, the first such punishment at the college, Kolesar said.
He called her a popular teacher and said the incident has deeply wounded many. "It's not too much to say she is loved on campus," he said.
Tong blamed the plagiarism on her haste in preparing the speech and meeting the many demands on her time since she was chosen professor of the year in 1986 by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, an arm of the Carnegie Foundation.
"I tried to do too much for too many people and wound up disappointing the people who mean the most to me: my family and the Williams community (from the president right down to the youngest freshman)," she wrote in the student newspaper.
"All I can offer you are my heartfelt apologies for being less than everything I should have been and my promise to never do less than my very best in the future," she wrote.
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