Punishing Its Own

For Harvard, a year of faculty behaving badly

In Ogletree’s case, former University President Derek C. Bok told The Boston Globe in September that “there was no deliberate wrongdoing at all.”

“It was a case of publishers insisting on a very tight deadline because they felt they had to get a book out just in time for the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education,” Bok said to the Globe. “He marshaled his assistants and parceled out the work and in the process some quotation marks got lost.”

Ogletree acknowledged in his apology in April that a “serious mistake” had been made, but he also used the words “negligent” and “inadvertently” to describe the offenses in question. (Please see story, page C8.)

But Hoffer argues that questions of intent are irrelevant. “You can’t use the argument that it wasn’t intentional. Plagiarism is a strict liability offense,” he says. He suggests academia’s treatment of high-profile professors can be akin to an Orwellian scenario: “Some animals are more equal than others.”

John T. O’Keefe, secretary of the Ad Board, writes in an e-mail that “intent is a factor the Board considers, certainly, although it’s a rare student who tells us he or she intended to plagiarize, and we do hold students accountable for knowing the basic rules of the proper use of sources.”


“In some cases, even though we can see that a variety of circumstances contributed to a student’s error, and that it was without an intent to deceive, we may still hold the student responsible for the consequences of their actions,” O’Keefe writes.

Observers are split on whether the Tribe and Ogletree cases will send students the message that faculty members are treated differently from students.

“It’s inevitable that it’s going to have some effect on how students perceive how they are and/or should be treated if they find themselves in a similar situation,” Frankel says. “Any time they use these procedures to deal with faculty, the students are watching.”

He adds, “If it’s not a double standard, it certainly comes close to it.”

But Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby sees few differences between the University’s treatment of faculty and student academic misconduct.

“I would not automatically assume that it is a double standard,” Kirby says.

“The one thing I can comment on is that we take it very, very seriously. We try to make it clear in the materials that prospective freshmen have coming in. Expository Writing aims to teach the use of sources,” he adds. “I think no Harvard student should be unaware of the expectations.”


Some observers believe Harvard was remiss in not being more open about the procedures and punishments surrounding the HLS incidents, sending an ambiguous message to students and other universities.

“Harvard profs (including me) have no difficulty in recommending transparency to all sorts of organizations, ranging from nonprofits to nations. Yet, Harvard itself has been remarkably non-transparent,” Hobbs Professor of Education and Cognition Howard E. Gardner ’65 writes in an e-mail.