Harvard Plagiarism Archive

"[T]he problem of writers . . . passing off the work of others as their own . . . [is] a phenomenon of some significance."
PROFESSOR LAURENCE TRIBE, e-mail to Dean Lawrence Velvel, 9/13/2004

"'I . . . delegated too much responsibility to others . . .,' [Prof. Charles Ogletree] said. 'I was negligent
in not overseeing more carefully the final product that carries my name.' * * * Ogletree told The Crimson that
he had not read the passage of Balkin’s book that appears in his own work. An assistant inserted the material
into a manuscript . . . . But Ogletree said he was closely involved in most of the drafting of the book . . . ."

STEVEN MARKS, "Ogletree Faces Discipline for Copying Text," The Harvard Crimson, 9/13/2004

"'Ronald Klain . . . then only a first-year student at Harvard law . . . spent most of his time with
Tribe working on Tribe's [1985] book God Save This Honorable Court,'" the Legal Times added in 1993.
* * * 'Many of Klain's friends and former colleagues say that he wrote large sections of the book . . . .'"

JOSEPH BOTTUM, "The Big Mahatma," The Weekly Standard, 10/4/2004

"[A]fter several plagiarism scandals broke over distinguished faculty members at Harvard's law school, including
Laurence Tribe,a group of students there set up a blog, Harvard Plagiarism Archive, to follow the University's
handling of the problem. They believe that the University, President Summers, and Dean Elena Kagan
essentially white-washed the scandal and are demanding further action.

PROF. RALPH LUKER, History News Network's "Cliopatria" blog,4/26/2005

“The Tribe and Ogletree matters have catalyzed bitter complaints from Harvard students that the university
employs a double standard. . . . The students have every right to be incensed over this gross double standard.
They in fact ought to raise hell peacefully about it: a constant barrage of letters, emails, statements . . . .”

DEAN LAWRENCE VELVEL, "Velvel on National Affairs" blog, 4/28/2005

"If you want to keep track of this story, I recommend the new Harvard Plagiarism Archive. . . . [I]t's pretty thorough."
TIMOTHY NOAH, Slate's "Chatterbox" blog,9/28/2004

"[Y]ou have done a wonderful service to all by operating the AuthorSkeptics website . . . a fine public service."
DEAN LAWRENCE VELVEL, author of "Velvel on National Affairs," e-mail to AuthorSkeptics, 4/19/2005

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Our 9/23/04 e-mail on who we are

(On September 23, we sent out an e-mail which was principally devoted to setting forth our e-mail exchange with Professor Bruce Jackson regarding who is/are the "OgletreeSkeptics," the name we were using at that time. For those who are interested in this and did not receive the e-mail, we reprint it here, except we have deleted the older material that originally appeared at the bottom of the e-mail (see posts below for that information).)

Who is/are the "OgletreeSkeptics"?

This is Revision 4.2 of the OGLETREE NEWS ARCHIVE. Revision 4.1 was e-mailed a week ago, on September 16, 2004, as it appears below after the double lining. There has been little additional news coverage of the Harvard plagiarism stories in the past week, so we have not yet updated the links set forth there. The most important new development remains Professor Tribe’s endorsement of the significance of the plagiarism issues identified by Dean Velvel in his blog posts, in the comments from Professor Tribe e-mailed to Dean Velvel and posted on his blog.

When we issue a new revision with updated links, we plan to feature the new links at the top of this e-mail and leave the earlier material unaltered, to make it easy for people to browse only the new links. If someone is willing to host our content on a website, that will make it easier to navigate this material and will cut down on the e-mail load.

Given the light coverage this past week, to encourage further interest in these important stories this revision is being e-mailed to a much wider list of recipients, particularly legal blogs, than past e-mails.

The only new material in this Revision 4.2, which appears immediately below, and before the double lining that separates this new material from the Revision 4.1 material, relates to a question those who have received past e-mails may be asking themselves: who is/are "OgletreeSkeptics"? Why this particular e-mail address, what is our agenda, and especially, why are we anonymous? In response to our earlier e-mails which have gone to over 100 recipients (primarily news outlets and professors), we have received a good number of approving comments, as well as some suggestions and questions. We have also receive two, and only two, e-mails critical of us, a verifiable fact, because anyone who sent us a critical e-mail that we didn’t acknowledge could report our failure to acknowledge it to the Harvard newspapers to discredit us.

The author of one of the critical e-mails was so critical that the end of the e-mail the author indicated a wish not to communicate with us further. So we did not write back. Because that author did not insist the e-mail sent to us be posted by us, we are not posting it. Although the author gave permission for us to post the e-mail if we wished, because the author is a well-respected law professor and the e-mail does not portray the author in a flattering light we are not posting it, out of a sense of decorum, as we see no point in posting it.

The other critical e-mail was quite different in tone and content, in terms of a willingness to engage us on the substance of the criticism. The author of this e-mail was Professor Bruce Jackson of SUNY Buffalo, the prolific author and journalist who among other things runs a website, "Buffalo Report" (
http://www.buffaloreport.com) which we linked to as it contains one of the articles we listed on the Dershowitz plagiarism story. That is why we included him as an e-mail recipient.

Professor Jackson asked us who is/are the "OgletreeSkeptics." He candidly set forth his view that our sending of anonymous posts is unethical unless we have a good explanation for why we are anonymous. We considered this to be a legitimate point, and we engaged Professor Jackson in an exchange of views in an effort to convince him that what we are doing, all things considered, is reasonable and valuable, and not unethical. For whatever it may be worth in clearing up similar reactions others may have, with Professor Jackson’s permission, here is the e-mail exchange. Immediately following the e-mail exchange is the text of OGLETREE NEWS ARCHIVE Revision 4.1, in its entirety, as was sent out on September 16.

[cc] (see http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/cc/cc.html;

From: "Bruce Jackson"
To: "OgletreeSkeptics" <ogletreeskeptics@yahoo.com>
Date: Thurs, 16 Sep 2004 21:11:07 -0400

Who is sending me these emails? I think this is the third or fourth I’ve gotten on this matter. Who is/are "OgletreeSkeptics"? If you’re going to attack someone’s ethics you should put your name on it, unless there’s a compelling legitimate reason why you can’t, in which case you should tell us what it is.
Bruce Jackson

Date: Fri, 17 Sep 2004 3:01 PM
From: "OgletreeSkeptics" <ogletreeskeptics@yahoo.com>
To: "Buffalo Report" <bjackson@buffalo.edu>
Subject: Who is/are "OgletreeSkeptics," and why not pur your name on it?

Professor Jackson:

Your e-mail raises legitimate questions. The e-mail address "OgletreeSkeptics" was inspired by an article on Harvard President Larry Summers, quoting "one of the Summers skeptics," a highly regarded Harvard Law School professor (http://www.bruna.nl/content/scienceguide/genres/forum/harvard_radical.jsp). If highly regarded law professors can be "skeptics" toward their own university president, then others should be able to be skeptical of plagiarists such as Ogletree (and Goodwin and Dershowitz), and the Harvard administrators who are enforcing more stringent standards for plagiarism for students than they are for professors.

As to compelling, legitimate reasons to remain anonymous in this situation, in addition to that article (noting that even tenured professors are unwilling to publicly criticize Summers), see:












Unfortunately, this is not an atmosphere conductive to non-anonymous highlighting of ethical issues such as these.

Besides, our news archive only seeks to summarize all major discussion of the Ogletree, Goodwin, and Dershowitz stories (at least those that can be linked to on the Internet). We are not initiating any attacks on anyone's ethics. We want to include all discussion, both positive and negative. Because we are seeking only to summarize coverage and call attention to aspects of the stories that deserve to be covered further, perhaps a name other than "OgletreeSkeptics" would be more appropriate as an e-mail address to use for sending out these summaries. We will work on that, though we hope someone will as a long-term solution offer to host these summaries on a website.

We only sent you the e-mail because your website contains one of the articles to which we linked. If you'd like to be removed from the e-mail list, please tell us and we will remove you.
Feel free to post this e-mail on your website if you wish. If we want to post yours, may we?


From: "Bruce Jackson" <bjackson@buffalo.edu>
To: "OgletreeSkeptics" <ogletreeskeptics@yahoo.com>
Subject: Who is/are "OgletreeSkeptics," and why not pur your name on it?
Date: Fri, 17 Sep 2004 23:13:52 -0400

All that is interesting and there are important issues involved here, but, again, who are you? You’ve obviously done a lot of work chasing down all these urls and doing all this mailing. Are you a disinterested scholar? Someone who got a bad grade from someone at HLS? Someone interested in improving the performance of the profession? Why do you have to remain anonymous?

Date: Sat, 18 Sep 2004 11:31 AM
From: "OgletreeSkeptics" <ogletreeskeptics@yahoo.com>
To: "Buffalo Report" <bjackson@buffalo.edu>
Subject: Who is/are "OgletreeSkeptics," and why not put your name on it?

Professor Jackson:

You make a generally legitimate inquiry in asking at minimum for a category within which we fall, to give you and others a rough idea why we’re doing this. Such information can be helpful in evaluating information and particularly in considering potential sources of bias. For example the recent demand that Dan Rather generally describe the source of the allegedly forged Bush documents, for example, whether the source is affiliated with the Democrats and especially the Kerry campaign, or whether the source has some type of grudge against Bush.

The inquiry is pointless given the particular circumstances here. Unless we actually identify ourselves there’d be no reason for anyone to believe anything we said about generally why we’re interested in these issues because there’d be no way to verify it. Thus there'd be every reason to believe anything we said would be a smokescreen. For us to engage in that process would just hurt our credibility, and we would receive no credit for anything we said no matter how truthful we were.

A main reason we don’t wish to identify ourselves in any way is to remove a potential distraction and keep the focus on the substance of the plagiarism at Harvard and the failure by the administration to appropriately discipline scholars, and on its double standard with students being held to higher standards than professors. For example, last year, as soon as Professor Dershowitz was accused of plagiarism he largely avoided discussing the substance of the charges by engaging in ideological attacks on his accusers and making ad hominem attacks on them. At least as far as our participation in the debate, however limited (remember, at least to date we’re just summarizing and commenting on the news coverage), that’s not going to happen. Sure, he or others can complain that we’re anonymous (like the Kobe Bryant team has just complained that the police interview of him was leaked anonymously), but that only goes so far. At some point, the facts being highlighted anonymously are the facts, and they have to be dealt with no matter who has leaked or highlighted them.

Of course, though we’re trying hard to stick just to the facts which we feel we must do to have any credibility as we are after all anonymous, there’s every reason for those reading our posts to be skeptical of us to the degree they even care at all about the issues we’re highlighting. To err on the side of caution readers should assume the absolutely worst motives they can imagine, not just the possible motives you’ve suggested. Taking a leaf from Dershowitz, why not throw ideological animus into the mix? Even throw in animus relating to religion, ethnicity, or national origin. To really clear the air in response to your inquiry, those skeptical of our motives can just assume these posts are being sent by the most biased, bigoted, angry, even vengeful people they can imagine.

The point of this exercise is to make clear that given the quite modest scope of our posts, which are restricted to existing coverage of these plagiarism stories, and do not make any new factual allegations, it really doesn’t matter what our motives are, or who we are. We're not asking anyone to trust us on any new factual allegations, based on our identities. The posts are what they are, and they have some potential value even if one makes the worst imaginable assumptions about us and our motives. Regardless of our motives we have every reason to make our posts fair, reasonable, and accurate, so people will read them and be aided by them to pay more attention to these plagiarism issues, and therefore our work won’t be wasted. There are many anonymously written blogs out there, and our e-mails are really no different than an anonymously written blog, especially because we will immediately drop from our e-mail list anyone who does not want to receive updates of the archive of news stories and thus we are not being intrusive by e-mailing people. With any luck someone will soon offer to have these postings featured on a website or blog and further e-mails will be unnecessary. It doesn’t matter to us whether a website or blog willing to host these postings is anonymous or non-anonymous. In our view all that matters is the information itself which has whatever value it has.

Readers who don’t like these posts can and should attack anything in them they see as inaccurate or unfair, and either place the attacks on their own websites or blogs or e-mail them to us. We’ll reprint these attacks, even if we think they’re unfair, and we’ll respond to them either by rebutting the charge if it’s incorrect, or fixing the problem if we’re in the wrong. By doing that we will increase the credibility of our posts over the long term by demonstrating we’re responsible journalists/commentators.

Because we’ve stuck so closely to the facts, we predict there will be few attacks on the accuracy or fairness of our posts, those few will be covered by us, people receiving these posts who have made attacks will compare notes and realize no one has attacked our posts without the attack being publicly discussed, and the end result is that our posts will have added credibility because they will have withstood the process of our encouraging attacks on them.

We’ll respect the privacy of those who write us. If they wish they may use their real name and authorize us to use their name in reprinting anything they write. If they wish they may use their real name but ask us not to include their identity in reprinting anything they write. If they wish they may write us anonymously. Beyond being the fair and decent thing to do, by respecting the privacy of those who write us we will be further demonstrating our responsible handling of these issues and in that way increasing the credibility of our entire effort. We’re not doing this to waste our time or as some sort of prank. We want to have a real effect, however small, on how these issues are handled in academia.

We would be pleased if updating and sending out our news archive becomes unnecessary because the Harvard administration quickly arranges for an independent, outside investigation of the Ogletree plagiarism and the two other recent instances of plagiarism, and announces that in the future students and professors will be held to at least the same standards regarding plagiarism (though professors, one would think, should be held to higher standards). Those affiliated with academics, not just at Harvard but elsewhere, who are uncomfortable with or upset by these anonymous posts should perhaps look to the root problem that has led to them being sent out, rather than focusing on the motives or ethics of the person or persons sending them. Your e-mails do, however, raise generally legitimate issues, and you have been candid and up front in addressing them, and we thought we owed it to you to take them seriously and answer them as fully as we feel comfortable answering them.

Unless we hear otherwise by Monday noon (Eastern time) we’ll assume we’re free to reprint or summarize your e-mails and/or your name in future revisions of our news archive, since we asked you about this in our earlier e-mail and you did not object to our using your name. If we quote or summarize you, we will do so accurately. If you do object to our using your name, we’ll reprint your e-mails and describe you only as a prominent professor and prolific author at a well-regarded public university in the Northeast.

As we said earlier you’re free to reprint on your website or elsewhere all e-mails you receive from us.


From: "Bruce Jackson" <bjackson@buffalo.edu>
To: "OgletreeSkeptics" <ogletreeskeptics@yahoo.com>
Subject: Who is/are "OgletreeSkeptics," and why not put your name on it?
Date: Sat, 18 Sep 2004 15:24:01 -0400


All the points you raise and discuss are good and valid, which means, I guess, I agree with them. The web is a place where people should critically examine what they find and make up their own minds. Caveat lector. I knew a bit about the Dershowitz affair, so I was comfortable (as you know) posting material regarding it on my own web site. I don't know anything about the Ogletree affair except what I've read in your mailings. Because of the vigor of those mailings I did indeed wonder if you had a jones against Ogletree, against Harvard, or against academics who apparently carelessly paste their name on the work of other people. You told me, properly I think, that none of that should matter: the material was there for me (and others) to do with as I might, and the web is there and other sources are there for me to delve more deeply into any of this should I wish. Your mailings were collections of things already available; the interpretations of those things, the decision about the validity of each, was up to anyone who clicked on any of the links, as is always the case on the web.

I'd like everybody to be free enough to put his or her name on anything out here in the free land of the web, but clearly that is not possible. Some of the best reporters on my own site have to write under pseudonyms. That is, as it is for each of us, the writer's call.

About using my emails: go right ahead. The web is a land of no privacy and infinite replicability. I would ask nothing more than what you offer: that you quote or summarize me accurately.

Bruce Jackson

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