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, July 20, 2010

Script and Synoposis of the July 8 "I'm Larry Tribe" Video

We have been covering the ghostwriting/plagiarism scandals at Harvard Law School for nearly six years now.  (For background on our decision to blog anonymously, see here, here, and here).  We have addressed virtually every aspect of the scandals and virtually every comment by journalists and bloggers about them, often in considerable detail.  As mentioned earlier (here), recently we had the opportunity, working with the bloggers on the Harvard Parody site (here; earlier platform here), to attempt to boil down the history of the scandals using a video format, so that someone with no prior knowledge of them could after watching the video have a working understanding of the issues they present, some of which remain unresolved. 

With considerable (and needed) help from the Harvard Parody bloggers, we did our best to present the material in a way that is not just informative, but entertaining.  We introduced that video in our July 10 post, here.  It's hosted on WordPress, as one high-quality video, here.  It's hosted on YouTube (though in slightly lower quality) here

A reader suggested that we post a script of the video, to help facilitate analysis of and commentary on it.  We prepared one and provided it to the Harvard Parody bloggers, who posted it here.  However, as concise as we tried to make the presentation, the video runs 31 minutes, so as quick guidance for those who may be new to our blog, and to help encourage people to watch the video, we also prepared an informal synopsis of the video, which also includes a few additional comments as context, most of which will be familiar to long-time readers of our blog.

Although the segments of the video are not numbered, the video covers seven areas, which for convenience we are numbering here.  In parentheses we indicate where in the video each area is covered, for those readers who want to watch only a particular segment.

1.  Introduction and basic background concerning the March, 2005, Harvard Law School Drama Society parody show in which students made fun of Professor Laurence Tribe for his routine use of student ghostwriters, and for his recently discovered plagiarism, for which he had received no punishment.  (0:00 to 2:15)

2 .  Alan Dershowitz:  an "orgy of plagiarism." Evidence summarized on the AuthorSkeptics' blog (here and here) and the detailed analysis of California attorney Frank J. Menetrez (here, here, here, and here), together show beyond any doubt that Alan Dershowitz's 2003 book, A Case for Israel, plagiarized extensively from Joan Peters' 1984 book, From Time Immemorial -- an "orgy of plagiarism," as one reviewer commented shortly after the book appeared. Despite all this evidence, Dean Elena Kagan imposed no punishment on Dershowitz.  (2:15 to 4:00)

3.  Charles Ogletree:  "Double plagiarism" and "tenure-revoking ghostwriting."  Interviews of Harvard Law Review editors and Harvard Law School professors, as reported by the New Republic in 1993, document that then-untenured professor Charles Ogletree was charged with having fraudulently hired students to ghostwrite his tenure article.  Ogletree denied the charge.  There was no conclusive proof of the ghostwriting, as no one was willing to come forward publicly as a witness for fear of being called racist.  In this climate, Ogletree was granted tenure.  However, a decade later in 2004 the original charges took on new credibility, when Ogletree was forced to admit to heavy reliance on student ghostwriters, after ghostwriters who drafted a just-released book for him plagiarized six consecutive paragraphs from a book by Yale law professor Jack Balkin.  (Here, here, here, and here.) Dean Elena Kagan learned of the offense through an anonymous tip.  She did nothing for months. In a Clintonesque effort to minimize news attention she waited until the Friday evening before Labor Day to release her brief internet statement on it (here).  This tactic which backfired when several students, disturbed by such chicanery in an academic environment, started the "OgletreeSkeptics," later renamed "AuthorSkeptics," project in response.  Kagan imposed no punishment on Ogletree, nor did she revisit the original charge that Ogletree had obtained tenure through fraud.  Kagan imposed no punishment even after the Harvard Crimson reported in 2006 that Ogletree's book contained four consecutive sentences which plagiarized from a 1996 book by University of California scholar Roy Brooks (the four sentences appeared in exactly the same order in Brooks's book) (here).  (4:00 to 7:00)

4.  Laurence Tribe's "research factory":  "a bigger kind of plagiarism."  The Ogletree scandal led Ogletree's colleague at Harvard, Professor Laurence Tribe, to write an e-mail to Dean Lawrence Velvel defending Ogletree, but also agreeing with Velvel that "the problem of writers . . . passing off the work of others as their own" was a significant one (here).  Without objection from Tribe, Velvel posted Tribe's e-mail on his blog (here). Another professor (whose identity remains unknown), who regarded Tribe's remark as rather hypocritical, then tipped off the Weekly Standard about Tribe's own plagiarism, in a 1985 book about the Supreme Court, of a 1974 book on the Supreme Court published by Henry Abraham of the University of Virginia.  Joseph Bottum of the Weekly Standard published a lengthy article (here) summarizing the evidence that Tribe had hired a first-year law student to write much of the book for him and that whoever drafted the book had lifted many passages nearly verbatim from Abraham's book.  Tribe apologized for the offense (here and here) and then refused to grant any interviews, not even to the New York Times (here)  Dean Elena Kagan investigated the matter despite her conflict of interest (in the 1980s she, too, had helped draft a book for Tribe and even lived in his basement (here), and thus she had an incentive to keep hidden the extent of Tribe's ghostwriting operation).  On April 13, 2005, Kagan released an official statement on behalf of Harvard clearing Tribe of any intentional wrongdoing (here). (7:00 to 12:00)

5.  Unanswered criticisms of Kagan and Tribe

Kagan's action met with severe and sustained criticism from Dean Velvel -- in particular, her apparent decision that for a Harvard law professor to delegate the writing of a book to a law student, and take sole authorship credit, is not an offense deserving of punishment.  (Here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)  Velvel suggested two simple statements Tribe could make to clear away the charge that he'd used ghostwriters (here, para. 42), statements Professor Ogletree had earlier declined to make (here and here), and which Tribe has declined to make.  (Later, in 2006, Velvel stated (repeating a remark by a professor with personal knowledge of the matter, which would be libelous if it weren't true) that Tribe's assistants "had written large tracts of Tribe's treatise."  See here.)  Tribe's scholarly practices also came under sharp attack by noted historian Peter Charles Hoffer, who holds a Ph.D from Harvard and whose son was a student of Tribe's.  On national television Hoffer stated that Tribe "is misusing assistants"; that he's "not a scholar anymore"; that he's "sort of running a research corporation."  Hoffer further stated that he doesn't see how Tribe can "stand up in front of a group of people as an author" when he's actually "a compiler" of material drafted for him by others.  Hoffer concluded that if he had been aware of Tribe's scholarly practices while his son was at Harvard Law School, he'd have advised his son to "take someone else for constitutional law."  (12:00 to 16:00)

The portion of the 31-minute video containing Hoffer's remarks is available as a standalone video on YouTube here (or just click below):

(Note:  the Hoffer interview served as the inspiration for one of Harvard Parody's funniest songs following up on "I'm Larry Tribe," a song ghostwritten for Tribe to sing, entitled "I'm a Compiler," available here.)

To the best of our knowledge, to date neither Kagan nor Tribe have disputed any of the criticisms made by Velvel and Hoffer.

6.  The June 28, 2010, National Review article on Tribe, written by Robert VerBruggen (here), published more evidence that Tribe is not an author, but merely a "compiler" of material drafted by his army of assistants.  His assistants copied into his 1978 constitutional law treatise at least seven passages from issues of the Harvard Law Review, giving no credit to the Review for the copied passages.  The 2000 edition of Tribe's treatise contained a new section on the Seventh Amendment which Tribe had presented as new and original -- until, that is, the National Review informed him it had learned that hundreds of words of the section had been copied from a 1996 Supreme Court amicus brief which had been filed by eleven lawyers and law professors (not including Tribe), without any credit being given that brief, and without even a mention of the brief (even though the analysis in the brief had ultimately been rejected by the Supreme Court).  Making his first public admission to the use of ghostwriters (and thus confirming the criticisms of Professor Hoffer and Dean Velvel), in a written statement Tribe blamed his "then-research assistant Jonathan Massey" (who he said was one of the "many research assistants over the years" who had helped him actually "draft" portions of his treatise) for failing to disclose to readers that this material was copied from the amicus brief.  However, Tribe was silent on why he never disclosed to readers that his new, heavily pro-plaintiff section on the Seventh Amendment had actually been drafted by a lawyer more than a decade out of law school who (as subsequently discovered by law professor "R.O. Denver") had a long history of urging pro-plaintiff arguments on behalf of plaintiffs' trial lawyers (for example, in the amicus brief at issue) -- a lawyer with a pro-plaintiff bias so extreme that in 2002 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit imposed $71,000 in sanctions against him for filing a pro-plaintiff appellate brief which contained "a substantial number of outright falsehoods" in what was "indisputably an act of deliberate misrepresntation."  (Order in Case No. 01-21064 dated Nov. 25, 2002 (here), and earlier memorandum, imposing $71,117.75 in sanctions, jointly and severally, on Jonathan S. Massey, et al.).  (16:00 to 21:40)

7.  Holding Harvard Plagiarists Accountable. Where Harvard administrators such as Dean Elena Kagan fell down on their job, by openly tolerating professors who hire students to ghostwrite their books for them, even when the ghostwriters commit plagiarism, Harvard students stepped up.  One group of students started the Harvard Plagiarism Archive.  On a more entertaining note, members of the Harvard Law School Drama Society prominently featured Tribe and Ogletree in their March, 2005, parody show, staged before an audience of thousands.  The 31-minute video includes audio clips of all three skits focusing on ghostwriting and plagiarism, including the famous "I'm Larry Tribe," complete with lyrics and photos.  You can view that masterpiece as a standalone video here, or just click below:

Shortly after the parody wrapped, contrary to Tribe's September, 2004, statement in which he said he took full responsibility for his offense, Tribe sent an e-mail to his students (here) saying he didn't understand the suggestion in the parody that he was a plagiarist.  Given Tribe's clarification, in effect, that "his ghostwriter did it," so Tribe was guilty of using a ghostwriter, but not of personally plagiarizing from anyone, the students launched the Harvard Parody blog which retracted the "I'm Larry Tribe" parody (here) and substituted a new parody, "Harvard Plagiarist Heaven" (here).  The Harvard Parody blog continues, on a new platform, here.  (21:40 to 31:00)


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