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

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Fake blog on Professor Tribe

In doing google searches to find new material for this blog, yesterday we came across this comment made on November 15 on the "Waddling Thunder" blog of a Harvard Law School student, here, concerning a blog about Professor Tribe called "The Big Mahatma."

The student observed: "I really don't know what to make of this, but I've just noticed this extremely elaborate fake blog purporting to mock Professor Tribe. I haven't the foggiest idea who could be bothered enough to do this, but there it is. Bizarre."

The page hosted at the link was not terribly informative, as it posts only an "under construction" sign, indicating that sometime between November 15 and when we noticed this yesterday, there was something fairly elaborate on the page, which is now no longer there. This was the only mention we have been able to find of the fake blog -- which raises the question, why would someone do an "extremely elaborate fake blog" mocking Professor Tribe, and then not tell anyone about it?

To try to get some idea of what was at that link on November 15, we contacted various law students who we thought might be regular readers of the Waddling Thunder blog, and one of the students had actually seen the blog (though unfortunately had not made a copy) and was kind enough to write us back. This student described it as follows (information which might identify the student in ellipses):

The blog purported to be BY Professor Tribe, but it was executed in such as way as to be an obvious fake. There was a photo of Tribe in the user data box to the side and it went on at great length in pseudo-biographical fashion before discussing his befuddlement at being the subject of the recent allegations of plagiarism. I don't think it had a posted email address in the profile. The title was "The Big Mahatma" and it was several screens long, although only one post was made and there were no archives.

I found the blog around the first of November through checking my referrer logs. . . . When I clicked on the link, I wasn't able to see any links to my site, but upon some fooling around (Google cache? to be honest, I don't remember) I was able to find a previous version of the single giant post that currently graced the blog . . . . Unfortunately, I did not print the blog out or save it. I didn't link to it because it was so clearly someone poking a mean bit of fun at the professor (the first person narrative was stream-of-consciousness and rather unflattering) without casting any light on the plagiarism issue. I agree that it's a very odd occurrence and can only guess that the person in question had their jollies and is through, or that Professor Tribe somehow found out about it and asked the person to take it down.
This description of the fake blog, if anything, simply left us more confused about why someone would do something so obviously elaborate and then do nothing to publicize it, but we offer this information for whatever it might be worth.

If any of our readers have any more information on this fake blog, particularly a copy of some or all of it, please contact us so that we can try to get to the bottom of this, especially regarding anything on the blog related to the plagiarism story on Professor Tribe.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell on plagiarism

Earlier this month the
New Yorker published an interesting article on plagiarisim by Malcolm Gladwell, called "Something Borrowed," asking: "Should a charge of plagiarism ruin your life?" See here.

The article mentions, though not much more than in passing, both the Goodwin plagiarism case and the Tribe plagiarism case. The mention of Dr. Goodwin is in the context of noting the increasingly serious attention which is being given to plagiarism offenses:
in the worlds of academia and publishing, plagiarism has gone from being bad literary manners to something much closer to a crime. When, two years ago, Doris Kearns Goodwin was found to have lifted passages from several other historians, she was asked to resign from the board of the Pulitzer Prize committee. And why not? If she had robbed a bank, she would have been fired the next day.
The article mentions Professor Tribe in the context of arguing that the rules defining what is "plagiarism" in the academic world have become too stringent:
The ethical rules that govern when it’s acceptable for one writer to copy another are even more extreme than the most extreme position of the intellectual-property crowd: when it comes to literature, we have somehow decided that copying is never acceptable. Not long ago, the Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe was accused of lifting material from the historian Henry Abraham for his 1985 book, “God Save This Honorable Court.” What did the charge amount to? In an exposé that appeared in the conservative publication The Weekly Standard, Joseph Bottum produced a number of examples of close paraphrasing, but his smoking gun was this one borrowed sentence: “Taft publicly pronounced Pitney to be a ‘weak member’ of the Court to whom he could not assign cases.” That’s it. Nineteen words.
In our view, Mr. Gladwell is incorrect in his factual premise. Joseph Bottum's article in the Weekly Standard established -- no one has even tried to defend Professor Tribe on the specifics -- that much of Tribe's book was copied from Professor Abraham's book. Far more than the nineteen words copied verbatim, the real "smoking gun" is the evidence marshalled by Mr. Bottum of various artful efforts to reword Professor Abraham's material so as to disguise the copying involved. See here. The Tribe plagiarism case is hardly, in our view, an example of anti-plagiarism norms run amuck.

Still, the New Yorker and Mr. Gladwell deserve credit for addressing the current debate concerning plagiarism, and for at least commenting on the Goodwin and Tribe plagiarism cases, which many major publications have declined to do, perhaps due in part to ideological and/or personal favoritism toward Dr. Goodwin and Professor Tribe.

For some blogger commentary on Mr. Gladwell's article, see
here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here

For more on Mr. Gladwell's very interesting publications, see here.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

New York Times story on Professors Tribe and Ogletree

The November 24
New York Times carred an important story on plagiarism by university scholars which prominently featured the stories concerning Professors Tribe and Ogletree. See here.

The most startling aspect of the article, in our view, is that Professor Tribe refused to grant an interview to even
The New York Times regarding the charges against him. By contrast, and to his credit, Professor Ogletree gave interviews on the the problems with his own book to, at minimum, the Boston Globe and the Harvard Crimson.

Of considerable interest, even though he declined comment, Professor Tribe employed his office staff to assist him in an effort to further publicize as "fact" what some of his current and former students on November 4 stated to be a "fact" (see here): that Professor Tribe, before publishing his 1985 which copied from Professor Abraham without attribution, sent Professor Abraham a pre-publication copy. Thus, the article states:

Professor Tribe declined to comment on the matter. His office released a letter that it said Professor Tribe sent to Professor Abraham 20 years ago, along with a copy of Professor Tribe's manuscript; Professor Tribe wrote that he had drawn on Professor Abraham's book, in part, and asked for his reactions.
What is especially interesting is that given the wording of this passage, it seems evident that the New York Times is in no way endorsing the authenticity of the letter released by Professor Tribe's letter, which suggests that the reporter tried to confirm the information by checking with Professor Abraham to see whether such a letter was received, but was unable to confirm the information. Thus, contrary to the idea that it is a "fact" that Professor Tribe sent a pre-publication copy to Professor Abraham, it seems that no one with personal knowledge of the matter has come forward to state that a pre-publication copy was sent. However, we will avoid passing judgment on the matter until Professor Tribe comments further on the story involving him.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Professor Hoffer suggests Professor Tribe may be merely a "compiler" of material ghostwritten by others

Reflecting one of the points about the plagiarism story concerning Professor Tribe which has troubled us most, on November 21, Professor Peter Charles Hoffer was interviewed by Brian Lamb on the C-SPAN program "Booknotes," and during the interview he mentioned that his son was once a student of Professor Tribe's; that if his son were now at Harvard Law School he would advise him to take someone other than Professor Tribe for constitutional law; and that Professor Tribe may be at least to some degree merely a "compiler" of material ghostwritten for him by others.

For general information on the program, see here. For a transcript, see here. For commentary on the program, see here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Full text of the exchange between Dean Velvel and Professor Ogletree, arranged in chronological order

As we very briefly noted here, the recent exchange between Dean Velvel and Professor Ogletree on the Ogletree plagiarisim story, via Dean Velvel's blog posts and the e-mails between them posted on Dean Velvel's blog, is of tremendous importance in shedding light on the Ogletree plagiarism story.

Rather than offering our own editorial opinion (which we may do later), here we simply present the exchange in chronological order, untouched except for the inclusion of a few links to help guide the reader regarding what is being discussed, the breaking up of Professor Ogletree's one-paragraph e-mails into small chunks, with a paragraph for each different topic, and bolding added to the three final questions Dean Velvel asked Professor Ogletree, and the two statements Dean Velvel suggested that Professor Ogletree could make to resolve ambiguities in his past statements which, if true, would clear up once and for all the charge that parts of the book in question were drafted not by him, but by one or more ghostwriters.

For completeness, we also include the e-mail to Dean Velvel from the writers of the September 29 story on Professor Tribe in The Crimson, answering Professor Ogletree's allegations they took his remarks out of context, as both Dean Velvel and Professor Ogletree reference this e-mail.

We believe this chronological arrangement of the exchange in one document will greatly assist readers in following the exchange, compared with having to jump around various posts on Dean Velvel's blog.

For further background on coverage of the Ogletree plagiarism story generally, see here, here, and here.

We commend Dean Velvel on his vigorous efforts to help clarify exactly what Professor Ogletree's position is regarding how his book was produced. In particular we admire the respect for Professor Ogletree he demonstrated in giving Professor Ogletree every possible benefit of the doubt regarding the meaning of his previous statements, and we admire the patience he demonstrated in giving Professor Ogletree every possible opportunity to further clarify his remarks.

Dean Velvel's post of October 4, 2004
(see here)

Re: Professor Ogletree's Response

Dear Colleagues:

A September 29th posting on this blog strongly, even harshly, criticized Professor Ogletree. Here is what was said, in full relevant part:
Anyway, Professor Tribe quickly issued a mea culpa, an apology, after being "outed." He took "full responsibility" for the failure of attribution. One should applaud the immediate assumption of responsibility.
What one cannot applaud are the apparent reactions of Charles Ogletree and Alan Dershowitz to the Tribe situation. Ogletree is quoted by The Harvard Crimson as saying that the charges against Tribe are "nonsense." Nonsense? When Tribe has admitted them and apologized? It is hard to believe Ogletree said that. Is The Crimson quoting him correctly and in context? If it is, what the hell is the matter with this guy? One begins to wonder whether Harvard should keep him.
Whenever someone is criticized here, he or she (so far I don't remember any she's, however) is asked if they would like to respond. Professor Ogletree was asked. He has responded. Set forth below are the relevant context of what appeared in The Crimson, and Professor Ogletree's response to me.

The Crimson wrote:
"I have immediately written an apology to Professor Abraham, whom I -- like so many others -- hold in the highest regard," Tribe said in his statement.

The 83-year-old Abraham, who is retired from his post as a law professor at the University of Virginia, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

But both Ogletree and Dershowitz jumped to defend their colleague from the charges leveled against him.

Ogletree, speaking to The Crimson yesterday, dismissed The Standard's allegations against Tribe as "nonsense."
Professor Ogletree's response says:
My "nonsense" response was to the claim that Professor Tribe would NOT respond to the charges. He responded the very day that the matter was brought to his attention, as I imagined he would. Nothing else was said or should be implied from my comment. [Emphasis in original.]
There obviously is what one might politely call a disjunction between what The Crimson wrote and what Professor Ogletree wrote. To explicitly state the utterly obvious, The Crimson says Professor Ogletree called the charges against Professor Tribe nonsense. Professor Ogletree says he called the idea that Professor Tribe would not respond to the charges nonsense.

This all seems quite unfortunate. For either The Crimson would seem to have quoted Professor Ogletree horribly out of context (as the blog suggested might be possible), or there was a misunderstanding somehow, or Professor Ogletree's response is not true.

In view of what the first and last of the three possibilities might mean, it would seem desirable for the dramatis personnae to try to clear up what caused the disjunction. One is sorely tempted to think, one surely wants to think, that there was some sort of misunderstanding on one side or the other, or even on both sides. But one doesn't know. Given the unhappy meaning of two of the alternatives, the parties should try to clear up what happened.

October 7, 2004 e-mail to Dean Velvel from the Crimson writers who wrote the article on Professor Tribe in which Professor Ogletree was quoted (see here)

Crimson Staff's Response re. Ogletree Comments

Dear Professor Velvel:

Thank you for allowing us to respond to Professor Ogletree's allegations that we took his remarks out of context in our Sept. 27, 2004 news article. We believe that Professor Ogletree is mistaken in his recollection of our conversation.

At 2pm on Sunday, Sept. 26, we reached Professor Ogletree on his cell phone with the hopes of discussing The Weekly Standard's recent charges of plagiarism against Professor Tribe. We asked him two questions. First, we asked Professor Ogletree if he had seen The Standard's article accusing Professor Tribe of plagiarism. He said he had. Second, we said: "Do you think it rises to plagiarism?" His response -- which we read back to him to verify -- was: "It's nonsense, and Professor Tribe's rebuttals over the decades have made that clear." Professor Ogletree added that he would not comment further.

Professor Ogletree wrote that we had asked him to evaluate "the claim that Professor Tribe would NOT respond to the charges." We never made such a claim. We had left a message on Professor Tribe's home answering machine less than one hour earlier, and we had sent Professor Tribe an e-mail requesting comment just 10 minutes earlier. We expected his reply.

We were, however, perplexed by Professor Ogletree's referrence to "Tribe's rebuttals over the decades." Consequently, we called Professor Ogletree's cell phone again. We left him a message repeating his quote and asking him to explain what the second part meant. Had we been so negligent in our background research to have missed "Tribe's rebuttals over the decades"? Professor Ogletree did not respond to that message. Without further explanation from Professor Ogletree, we could not print the second part of his quote. We printed Professor Ogletree's confirmed, unambiguous assertion that The Standard's charges were "nonsense."

We are surprised that Professor Ogletree did not come to us with his concerns about the article. We feel that it would have been more appropriate for him to contact us before publicizing his objections. We have written to Professor Ogletree asking that he discuss the issue with us, but he has yet to respond. While we would prefer that this dispute be resolved in private, we feel that we must correct Professor Ogletree's inaccurate portrayal of our Sept. 26 conversation.


Daniel Hemel
Crimson Staff Writer

Lauren Schuker
Crimson Staff Writer

November 6, 2004 e-mail from Professor Ogletree to Dean Velvel (see here)

From: Charles Ogletree
To: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel"
Sent: Saturday, November 06, 2004 8:02 PM
Subject: Fwd: Re: Corrected response

[note: original was one paragraph; it has been split into multiple paragraphs for ease of reading]

Dear Dean Velvel:

I have not visited your website regularly because of my crazy schedule during the elections.

I just read the Crimson response.

I disagree with the reporter who described the conversation when he called me for a comment.

As I said before, my comment was about whether Prof. Tribe would respond to these very serious charges, not whether the work was plagiarized. How would I know? I was confident that he would respond, and as I recall, the student reporter asked me whether I could assist him in reaching Professor Tribe.

I do not read the Crimson with any regularity, and have not followed its coverage. I have though, for the past 20 years, responded to every call made by the students, on any subject, and as you can imagine, at all times of the day or night, and every day of the week.

If there was any misunderstanding about what I said or meant, for that I apologize and take full responsibility.

You also mention on your website that I and former President Bok say students wrote my book. That is not true. I wrote this book, and it was my view concerning Brown's impact on my life, from childhood, through adolescence, college, law school, and as a young lawyer.

Other than the historical work on Houston and the Marshall/King chapters, I really try to take the reader through my path as a "Brown Baby", having been born less than two years before the decision. I think you have read the book, and know that it is an historical memoir, and as I say rather clearly, designed to reach a broad public audience. As I wrote it, I listened to several people who told me to tone down the legal jargon, and I tried my best to do that.

I continue to take full responsibility for the errors, and I should not have let the pressing deadline in August influence the final edits of the book. As I said from the beginning, no one is to blame but me, and the responsibility is mine alone.

November 10, 2004, e-mail from Dean Velvel to Professor Ogletree (see here)

From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
To: Charles Ogletree
Sent: Wednesday, November 10, 2004 1:46 PM
Subject: Response

Dear Professor Ogletree:

Thank you very much for your email of Saturday, November 6th. I wish I could have responded to you more quickly, but I did not arrive back in the country until late Sunday night and have since been swamped trying to catch up after a nearly three week absence.

With regard to points, in your email, let me say, first, that it is gracious of you to take responsibility if there was a misunderstanding with The Crimson. It would seem that, if a misunderstanding existed, the situation was one of those common times when it will be impossible to retrospectively know exactly why the misunderstanding occurred. So it is gentlemanly of you to take the responsibility on your own shoulders.

In about the middle of your email, you make the following statement to me: "You also mention on your website that I and President Bok say students wrote my book." Professor, with the greatest respect, I am at a loss as to how you could write this in your email; I am at a loss to understand how you could write that I mention that you and President Bok say students wrote your book. As far as I can see, I said no such thing. I questioned whether you or assistants "wrote" (so to speak) the plagiarized paragraphs from Balkin. And I questioned whether the admitted insertion of these paragraphs by an assistant indicated that perhaps other parts of the book could have been written by assistants, which I thought might, at least in part, be most surprising if it were true. But where in heaven's name did I mention that you and President Bok said students had written the book? I am at a total loss to understand why you said I did this. If I am missing something, please enlighten me.

(I noticed this morning, incidentally, that after I was abroad the bloggers at Authorskeptics wrote that you and President Bok said you had law students write much of your book for you. Perhaps you have mixed up what I said with what Authorskeptics said.)

In your email, you also say to me that "I think you have read the book . . . ." You think I have read the book? Professor, the second sentence of my initial posting of September 10th says "I read and enjoyed the book earlier this year." You do not disbelieve that, do you?

Professor Ogletree, I know it is a harsh thing to say, and for that reason I almost feel badly in saying it, but don't the two just-discussed statements in your email reflect the kind of sloppiness which apparently caused the plagiarism problem in the first place?

One last point regarding statements in your email. Immediately after saying (wrongly) that I mention that you and President Bok say students wrote the book, you say, "That is not true. I wrote this book." Professor, without meaning to be Clintonesque, it depends on what the meaning of "wrote" is. Does 'wrote" mean that you wrote the first draft and each succeeding draft of the entire book? If so, it is public that you did not "write" the entire book, because about 840 words were plagiarized from Balkin. Or, does "wrote" mean that, when it came to Balkin's words, you personally made the initial decision to insert them, as opposed to merely reading them as inserted by someone else and leaving them in? The latter would not constitute "writing" that portion of the book in my opinion, but the former would. The problem here, of course, is that you have said that an assistant inserted Balkin's words in a draft section for the purpose of being reviewed, researched and summarized by another research assistant -- which does not sound as if you "wrote" the portion of the book at issue by making the initial decision to insert Balkin's words. But, regardless of how things currently sound, did you, in fact, specifically instruct the first student beforehand to insert Balkin's stuff? If so, this would put a new light on things.

And, with further regard to the meaning of "wrote," these points raise a question as to the remainder of the book. Did you personally write every word of the first and all succeeding drafts of the book apart from the Balkin material? Or did you have others write substantial drafts, or substantial drafts of entire sections, which you then reviewed and edited? If the former, then you "wrote" the entire rest of the book. If the latter, you did not.

Professor, with respect, as far as I know there have as yet been no answers to these questions. They are not resolved by the possibly bald statement that "I wrote this book." For, Clintonesque as it sounds, it does depend on what you mean by the word "wrote."

You know, although it is unfortunate that quotation marks were inadvertently omitted around Balkin's words, I have to say that, if this is "all" that occurred, it is a little hard to understand why Dean Kagan thought the matter "'a serious scholarly transgression'" after receiving the report from President Bok and Dean Clark. After all, unfortunate as it is, it sometimes does occur that writers, perhaps sloppily, inadvertently omit quotation marks. And, as far as I know, nobody is accusing you of deliberately omitting the quotation marks. So why is this matter such a big deal to Dean Kagan, and why is Harvard apparently going to impose some currently undislosed penalty, if all that occurred is inadvertent -- sloppy and negligent to be sure, but nonetheless inadvertent -- omission of quotation marks? If all that occurred is, if the only thing bothering Dean Kagan is, an inadvertent omission of quotation marks around Balkin's material, then neither Dean Kagan, nor President Bok, nor Dean Clark are doing you any favor by not coming right out and saying that this is all that occurred, is the sole reason to be troubled, and is the sole reason for the imposition of some currently undisclosed penalty.

Sincerely yours,

Lawrence R. Velvel, Dean

November 10, 2004, e-mail from Judge Richard A. Posner to Dean Velvel (see here)

From: Richard_Posner
To: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
Sent: Wednesday, November 10, 2004 3:44 PM
Subject: Re: Fw: Re: [ Ogletree's ]Corrected response

Fine letter, Larry

November 10, 2004, e-mail from Professor Ogletree to Dean Velvel (see here)

From: Charles Ogletree
To: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
Sent: Wednesday, November 10, 2004 5:45 PM
Subject: Re: Fw: Fw: Re: Corrected response

[note: original was one paragraph; it has been split into multiple paragraphs for ease of reading]

Dean Velvel:

Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your responsiveness.

All Deliberate Speed reflects my personal views about on Brown, and how that decision has influenced my life.

I did not mean to question whether you read the book, and trying to do too many things at once, I wrongfully attributed comments to you that were not yours.

I had the benefit of research and ideas, not only from students, but as well from colleagues who offered terrific ideas and suggestions. I adopted some and rejected others. Every word in the book is not mine. I had a terrific copy editor who was equally helpful on every aspect of the book. My book was not written by someone else, but I certainly did benefit from input by others. For that I am grateful.

You are right that, the haste in writing the note to you, without noting that someone else implied that others "wrote" the book, was wrong, and for that I apologize.

The same lack of careful attention to your email and the assistance that I received from others during the final week of the edits of the draft of the book are inexcusable, and merit whatever reactions and responses I received.

Thanks for your note, and best wishes.

Charles Ogletree
At 04:45 PM 11/10/2004

November 11, 2004, e-mail from Dean Velvel to Professor Ogletree (see here)

From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
To: Charles Ogletree
Sent: Thursday, November 11, 2004 4:25 PM
Subject: Re: Fw: Fw: Re: Corrected response

Dear Professor Ogletree:

Thanks for your response, and for its celerity.

Professor, your email seems to contain various mea culpas -- some implicit apologies as it were, as well as one explicit apology. But be assured that I did not feel any apology was owed to me. Yet it was kind of you to in effect apologize, and I wish to express my thanks.

Now let me apologize in turn, because of this response. I did not wish to write you again lest there be interminable back and forthing. I sincerely hope that, and at this point certainly intend that, this shall be my last substantive email to you on the subject of the discussion. But I did feel this email necessary because of some wording in your letter.

In your email you say, "I had the benefit of research and ideas, not only from students, but as well from colleagues who offered terrific ideas and suggestions. I adopted some and rejected others." So far, so good. It is laudable to have received -- and presumably to have sought out -- ideas and suggestions, and to have adopted some and rejected others.

Immediately after the above quoted sentence, you then say, "Every word in the book is not mine"-- a sentence which plainly is not to be read literally, but is to be read to mean the quite different proposition that "Not every word in the book is mine." The sentence "Every word in the book is not mine" gives rise to two questions, as discussed below.

Immediately after saying "Every word in the book is not mine," you say, "I had a terrific copy editor who was equally helpful on every aspect of the book." You then say, "My book was not written by someone else, but I certainly did benefit from input by others."

Professor, I hope I am not being obtuse or obstinate, but it does seem to me that this perhaps somewhat odd concatenation of sentences raises legitimate questions:
1. When you say that you received valuable suggestions which you adopted, and that not every word in the book is yours, I hope you are not implying that some people gave you suggestions in the form of draft language which you then inserted into the book pretty much as given to you, except for relatively minor editing changes. One hopes the idea that not every word is yours is only a (possibly infelicitous) way of saying you adopted some suggestions made by others, although you did put the suggestions entirely into your own language.

2. When you say that not every word in the book is yours, and then say that you had a copy editor who was equally helpful on all aspects of the book, are you implying that the copy editor wrote, either initially or as a redraft, substantial parts of the book? One again hopes that this is not the implication. One hopes that the copy editor did only what copy editors normally do.

3. When you say you wrote the book but benefitted from input by others, are you saying, as one hopes, that you wrote every word of the first and subsequent drafts (except for normal changes made in the editing process), and that the input from others was strictly in the form of ideas and suggestions rather than in the form of draft language which you adopted pretty much lock, stock and barrel?
Professor, as said, I hope all of this is not mere obtuseness or obstinacy. But at rock bottom the issue is a simple one. Except for normal wording changes made by others in the editing process, did you or did you not write every word of the first and subsequent drafts of the book (including making the initial decision on whether to insert Balkin's material (or other quoted material)?) I believe you could lay the whole question to rest if you can and were to make two simple statements, which, if true, could not rightly be challenged by your assistants, President Bok, Dean Clark or anyone else. Those statements would be [emphasis added]:
1. “I personally wrote every word of the first and all subsequent drafts of the book and made the initial decision on whether to include any and all quoted material, including the Balkin material."

2. "Although I received and adopted ideas and suggestions from others, those ideas and suggestions did not come to me in the form of drafts which I then inserted in the books pretty much unchanged except for some editing. Rather, I myself wrote the language that reflects those ideas and suggestions."
Professor, if these two simple statements are true, are therefore not rightly challengeable, and were to be made by you, then I think the brouhaha would be over. On the other hand, if you cannot or will not make them, then the implication which inevitably will be drawn is that parts of your book were written by others.

Professor, given the ease with which you could lay the matter to rest if you can and do make the two simple statements, and given the inevitable implication that will be drawn if you cannot or are unwilling to make the statements, I cannot presently see how any further emails from me will be necessary or desirable except to congratulate you if you can and do make the simple statements which would end the matter.

Sincerely yours,

Lawrence R. Velvel,

November 14, 2004, e-mail from Professor Ogletree to Dean Velvel (see here)

To: Dean Velvel
From: Charles Ogletree
Date: November 14, 2004

[note: original was one paragraph; it has been split into multiple paragraphs for ease of reading]

Dean Velvel:

I have answered these questions.

It is the middle of November, and my students seek my advice and counsel, my clients (including those facing the death penalty) seek my services, and my family is reasonably insisting that I modify my practice of working seven days a week.

I will attend to these matters with dispatch.

Signing off.

CJOAt 04:25 PM
11/11/2004 -0500

November 16, 2004, response by Dean Velvel (see here)

Professor Ogletree's Latest Response

Dear Colleagues:

In the attached email Professor Ogletree declines to make the two simple statements which, as said in a blog of November 11th, would, if true, lay to rest the questions arising with regard to his authorship of parts of his book. The two statements were: (1) "Except for normal word changes made by others in the editing process, I personally wrote every word of the first and all subsequent drafts of the book and made the initial decision on whether to include any and all quoted material, including the Balkin material." (2) "Although I received and adopted ideas and suggestions from others, those ideas and suggestions did not come to me in the form of drafts which I then inserted in the books pretty much unchanged except for some editing. Rather, I myself wrote the language that reflects those ideas and suggestions."

Rather than make these two statements, Professor Ogletree says, "I have answered these questions." He then goes on to give a number of at least purported reasons why he apparently (and understandably) wishes to no longer continue email correspondence on the matter. (Here he has my sympathies. As said in the post of November 11th, this blogger too does not intend to continue the email correspondence between us).

This blogger is one who believes that, especially in context, Professor Ogletree's prior statements have not in fact answered the questions and have not established his innocence beyond peradventure, but have instead led to doubt. For those who believe this, as well as for those who seem to already have arrived at a conclusion of guilt, volumes are spoken by Professor Ogletree's declination to make the two simple statements which, if true, would clear his name.

For those who hold this position, the "only" remaining questions (which would be of interest to others too) might be these:
*How frequent is the problem at the Harvard and other law schools, i.e., how often do Harvard and other law professors have assistants write parts of their articles or books? (God forbid that they should have assistants write the entirety of their articles or books. This doesn't happen, does it?)

* How frequent is the foregoing problem, at Harvard and elsewhere, in departments other than the law schools? (There has been Internet traffic leading one to believe it may be distressingly common.)

* What has Harvard done, or what does it intend to do, about the problem? Also, what do other schools intend to do about it?

* Will anything be done about the problem as it exists -- to a fare thee well -- outside the academy, i.e., will anything be done about the parading of assistants' work as one's own by judges, politicians, corporate leaders and others? In fields such as these the problem is an everyday one that exists to an extent that seems not even conceivable in one's worst nightmares about academia.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Professor Ogletree refuses to answer three basic "yes" or "no" questions posed by Dean Velvel

In a remarkable e-mail exchange with Dean Velvel, spurred largely by Professor Ogletree's own apparently incorrect statements about what Dean Velvel supposedly had said about him, Professor Ogletree has apparently indicated he is unwilling -- at least until his schedule clears up a bit -- to answer three basic "yes" or no" questions posed by Dean Velvel designed to resolve various amibiguities in Professor Ogletree's own past statements, and is equally unwilling to make the two statements Dean Velvel suggested that Professor Ogletree could make to resolve ambiguities in his past statements which, if true, would clear up once and for all the charge that parts of the book in question were drafted not by him, but by one or more ghostwriters.

We will likely revisit this matter in a future post, but for now here are the links:

Professor Ogletree's November 6 e-mail and Dean Velvel's November 10 reply, here.

Judge Posner's note to Dean Velvel complimenting him on his reply, here.

Professor Ogletree's November 10 e-mail and Dean Velvel's November 11 reply, here.

Professor Ogletree's November 14 e-mail and Dean Velvel's November 16 reply, here.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Important book on plagiarism by Professor Hoffer

There is an important new book on plagiarism which has recently been published by a prominent historian, Peter Charles Hoffer, a history professor at the University of Georgia, which examines recent plagiarism scandals involving historians, including that involving Doris Kearns Goodwin, chronicled on this blog.

The book is called Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, Frauds -- American History from Bancroft and Parkman to Ambrose, Bellisles, Ellis, and Goodwin. We will try to post further on this after we have a chance to read the book.

In the meantime, for websites selling the book, see
here and here.

For some background on Professor Hoffer from his university website, see
here and here (PDF file of C.V. ).

The most important review of the book to date appears to be the one published in the Washington Post,

An earlier review in the Boston Globe can be found
here. For other coverage to date, see here, here, and here.

Update (2/3)

For more book reviews, or other treatments of plagiarism issues prominently mentioning the book, see:

Two important items in Slate, by Timothy Noah
here, and by David Greenberg here.

Three important items from the History News Network,
here, here, and here.

And various other items of possible interest
here, here, here, here, and here.

Of special possible interest to readers in New York, Professor Hoffer is scheduled to speak about his book at an event to be held on June 22 at the New-York Historical Society in Manhattan. See

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Professor Tribe -- new Harvard Law Record items

The November 4 issue of the
Harard Law Record carried two items pertaining to the plagiarism story involving Professor Tribe.

1. Letter in support of Professor Tribe. A group of seven of Professor Tribe's current and recent research and teaching assistants published a letter, here, defending him against the plagiarism charges and seeking to put those charges in context.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the letter is this statement: "Professor Tribe provided Professor Abraham with a pre-publication copy inviting comments, and Professor Tribe's book describes Professor Abraham's volume as the leading work in the field."

To our knowledge, Professor Tribe has never publicly claimed that he sent a pre-publication copy to Professor Abraham. The letter writers, who were presumably in grade school when Professor Tribe published the book in 1985, do not explain how they know this. It would appear Professor Tribe provided them with this information, and perhaps other information contained in the letter, and he is at least to some degree using his current and former students as proxies, so as to wage a defense without making any public comments himself.

2. Sarcastic attack on Tribe supporters. The same issue of the law school newspaper includes an anonymous, sarcastic attack, starting here, on two students who signed an earlier letter in The Harvard Crimson in support of Professor Tribe, Michael Fertik and Dan Richenthal. The letter which is being ridiculed in the column is here, and we earlier discussed it here.

In our view, the humor column is correct in ridiculing the effectiveness of the letter designed to support Professor Tribe; in our view, that letter was counterproductive, and it would be both more effective and more honorable for him to address these charges further directly, rather than resorting to the use of proxies, especially proxies who are not his equals, but instead are to some degree dependent upon him for future advancement.