Friday, 11 January 2013

Who will cast the next stone?

Dear Readers,

The following article is about what can happen when one fails to attribute! Laura Kane and Kristin Rushowy, Staff Reporters for the Toronto Star just updated their work-in-process with 'U of T checking Chris Spence’s dissertation for plagiarism' and this is it, verbatim. My response is below that followed by space for your comment, or you can email me directly if you choose although I am finding my email box overflowing but please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent!

The University of Toronto is now reviewing the dissertation of former Toronto District School Board director Chris Spence.                      KEITH BEATY/TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO

The University of Toronto is investigating allegations that former Toronto District School Board director Chris Spence plagiarized several lengthy passages of his doctoral dissertation. Spence, in a written statement first obtained by the Star, said he is “aware of allegations with respect to other writings, including my 1996 PhD dissertation. I want to assure the relevant parties that I intend to fully co-operate with any possible inquiry. I look forward to hearing from them at the appropriate time.

He also thanked the media “for their consideration. My family and I would also like to extend our sincerest thanks to the many people who have expressed kind wishes. We are immensely grateful for that.”
Spence received the doctorate in education from the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. His thesis was titled “The Effects of Sport Participation on the Academic and Career Aspirations of Black Male Student Athletes in Toronto High Schools.”

The Star found five passages that had apparently been plagiarized from other sources, in the first 33 pages of the 289-page document alone. In some instances,Spence appears to have copied word-for-word from other authors. Michael Kurts, assistant vice-president of strategic communications and marketing, said in an email that the matter was under review.“The University takes academic integrity very seriously. The matter is under review.

At this time, the University has no further details to provide,” he said. U of T dean of education Julia O’Sullivan has not replied immediately to requests for comment. Spence resigned Thursday as director of education amid a growing plagiarism scandal that has rocked the already troubled Toronto District School Board. Sources say he’ll receive roughly seven months’ pay — slightly more than what was left in his existing $272,000-a-year contract that was to end this summer.

Spence has said he plans to take an ethics course at Ryerson University and will personally contact the authors whose work he passed off as his own. He has been accused of multiple instances of plagiarism — in speeches, published articles, his online blog and, now, several questionable passage in his doctoral thesis — in addition to the initial instance in the Star for which he’d already apologized.

Spence has decided to stay quiet for now, declining media interviews and suspending his usually active Twitter account. Deputy director Donna Quan has been named interim director, and trustees are expected to vote Friday at a morning meeting on who will replace Spence temporarily before they hire a headhunter to conduct a search for his replacement.

On Wednesday, the Star reported that an opinion piece Spence submitted about extracurricular activities was cobbled together using several passages from other sources, including two paragraphs directly taken from the New York Times. A reader alerted the paper to the unattributed material. Spence admitted the initial case of plagiarism when contacted by the Star on Tuesday, and apologized for it. On Wednesday, he posted a lengthy apology on the board’s website. 

On Thursday, the National Post found more examples of writing Spence claimed were his, in the Star and elsewhere, with passages he used but did not credit. Examples of plagiarism continue to mount, in his personal blog, a 2010 speech made in front of teachers at the Air Canada Centre, and particularly in the dissertation.

On page 2 of his thesis, Spence writes, “The emphasis has shifted from the provision of formal or legal equality of opportunity, to the requirement that educational institutions take active or affirmative steps to ensure equal treatment of different groups.” That sentence also appears in “Contradictions of Recent Educational Reforms,” by Ibrahim Alladin, in “Excellence and Quality in Education,” a book published one year earlier.

Spence said in his resignation letter he intends to “restore my reputation, and to uphold the academic integrity I consider to be so important. But most importantly, to make amends for what I have done.”

                                                          A journalist at work?
my response....

I fondly recall sitting in journalism class at Centennial College, in the very early 70's, listening to different stories with the same punchline, over and over again....'always make sure you attribute whatever supporting information you are providing the reader to it's original source or you will be credited with ownership...and suffer the consequences'. At first, I thought it was cynical advice but over time, i've found out that it's not that cynical! I mean, there are a number of great thinkers out there and if I had only a modicum of what brain power Albert Einstein did, wouldn't folks think I was smart, too? I mean, wasn't it Albert Einstein who put it best with..."the world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it. Perhaps this is a story for another day! "Unfortunately, as human beings, we also have one major drawback...too often we have bad memories....especially when our minds get overloaded.

                                                                   Albert Einstein

We read something that finds it's way into a deep, dark crevice in our skull and then we forget about it...right up to the moment we read or hear something that ties it together but even if it sounds familiar, we may have forgotten the details....or just think we thought of it ourselves! I mean, just the other night while watching the Peoples Choice Awards on TV as Alicia sang her new tune, 'Girl on Fire' when part way through, I started humming 'Hey There Lonely Girl', a song recorded by R&B singer Eddie Holman and released in 1969 and charted in 1970. An original version by Ruby and the Romantics was entitled, 'Hey There Lonely Boy' in 1963. Holman's song peaked at #2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 pop chart, his highest charting single. This nagged at me so I then went into the you tube website and in the narrative for 'Girl on Fire', where others were discussing the same topic. Without making excuses; as a musician, I am only too aware of the difficulty in stringing music and lyrics together so that it flows so it's not for me to criticize the writer of Alicia's tune.

                                                      A journalist, like a Rocket Scientist?

Personally, I still remain very conscious of attribution and when reading my posts; generally responses to others' articles, I would hope that you notice the many attributions where they apply. But I just know one or two are going to get by the editor (me) so forgive me if I resist the urge to pile-on this ex. CFL football player. The phrase, *'Mortals who abide in vitreous edifices should not possess morbid propensities toward disestablishmentarianism' was coined for a reason so it won't be me to *'cast the next stone' in the direction of Chris Spence. I'll leave that for the writer *'who hath not sinned!' So my advice to all of these writers who are *'killing so many trees and spilling so much ink' is, *'be nice on the way up so hopefully, you won't get kicked too hard on the way down' for *'there but for the grace of God, go I'!


In all fairness, I have to wonder about those; holier than thou who have nothing better to do with their time but look for scapegoats so that voters are not talking about McGuinty's scandals like: eHealth; Ornge; cancelled power plants and not collecting $1.4B in Corporate taxes. As egregious as Chris Spence was in some of his writings, he didn't cause all these blunders that have mortally wounded the taxpayer but I just know there are those in media who would like you to think he did. It is said that Chris has hired a team to repair his professional, if not personal image; perhaps by changing the narrative and to this I can only add, *'time has a way of dealing with the trivial'.

I'm sure with the teachers now beaten into submission and the Liberal convention just around the corner, anything but the sorry state of Ontario's economy is what will be on the menu for the next two weeks!

* authors unknown



 bio at 
 Today's tweet......
Who will cast the next stone? It won't be me!

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