I should just mail my degree back

The Sydney Morning Herald reports (emphasis mine):

In late 2002 a casual lecturer employed by the University of Newcastle to teach at its affiliated school in Malaysia, Institut WIRA, gave zero marks to 15 students in a class of 50, citing “deliberate, serious plagiarism”.

The lecturer, Ian Firns, found that several students had copied large sections of their essays from a paper available on the internet without acknowledging the source. In the comments he wrote on the papers before handing them to the business school, Mr Firns spelt out the web address.

However, the ICAC Commissioner, Peter Hall, SC, heard yesterday that Mr Firns’s discoveries were ignored. All the essays passed—with grades up to 84 per cent—when marked again, after Mr Firns’s comments and the web address had been hidden with white correction fluid.

Paul Ryder, then the dean of business and the head of the Newcastle Graduate School of Business, told the inquiry yesterday that in ordering the remarking he acted on the advice of his deputy, Robert Rugimbana.

Dr Rugimbana had told his administrative staff to white-out Mr Firns’s comments. He told the commission he decided “there was no prima facie case evidence” of plagiarism, though he did not look at the website Mr Firns cited.

Asked by Ms Ronalds why he had did not check the web address, Dr Rugimbana said no academic would consider a web address as evidence of plagiarism. He likened Mr Firns’s explicit directions to someone saying “There’s the library”.

I don’t think that they were actually corrupt but it is disheartening that people this grossly incompetent got into positions of authority at my alma mater. I should just send my B Math back to Newcastle.

Discussion on this affair last year (including a acomment from Firn) at Troppo is here.


  1. #1 Kay
    September 8, 2004

    Could that really be incompetence and not corruption? I haven’t read the post at Troppo, so I might go and do so, but just from your report it sounds like *extreme* incompetence if it was not deliberate.

  2. #2 Tim Lambert
    September 8, 2004

    Yes, extreme incompetence. Look at Rugimbana’s statement that I highlighted.

  3. #3 Ken Parish
    September 8, 2004

    It’s corrupt. There is minimal possibility that this is an honest statement, even if English is a third or fourth language for Dr Rugimbana. The alternative, that he has a level of comprehension and intelligence equivalent to a retarded mynah bird, is arguably even worse. At least corruption in the face of such overwhelming and straightforward evidence of plagiarism requires a certain brazen, arrogant panache.

  4. #4 Tim Lambert
    September 8, 2004

    If they really were corrupt, then there were far better ways to pass the students that did not involve a risk of scandal. So they would have to be both corrupt and incompetent. Given the choice between corrupt AND incompetent and just incompetent, I think the simpler explanation is more probable.

  5. #5 John Quiggin
    September 9, 2004

    I used to work for Paul Ryder at James Cook Uni. I can’t say I’m terribly surprised by this story.

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