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Nicole Helget’s blog is getting attention. It’s getting under MnSCU’s skin, not to mention under Annette Parker’s skin:

On Thursday, a group calling itself Minnesotans United for Higher Ed, published similar allegations against another college president, also unnamed, with numerous examples of what it calls “intellectual fraud.” “We’ve uncovered two academically dishonest presidents, and there are more,” said Nicole Helget, a former South Central teacher and spokeswoman for the group. If the pattern continues, she said, “MnSCU will be the national laughingstock of higher education.”

MnSCU issued a brief statement Friday, saying: “We fully support all our outstanding presidents. It is disappointing that people with unknown motivations and a blog can repeatedly level baseless and reckless accusations against people they don’t like until they get the attention they seek.”

Others say that the allegations should be taken seriously. “It is an understatement to say that Annette has ‘borrowed heavily’ from our work,” said University of Richmond professor Jeffrey Harrison, co-author of an article Parker is accused of plagiarizing, in a written statement after reading the blog. “Nobody with her background and training could have engaged in such gross misconduct innocently.”

MnSCU’s statement shouldn’t be taken seriously. Talking about “our outstanding presidents” at a time when 11 of MnSCU’s institutions have to submit plans to fix their schools’ finances is foolish. If these colleges have outstanding presidents, why are their colleges in such dire financial shape? But I digress.

Here’s the heart of the Strib’s article:

In one example, Parker wrote: “More loosely formed partnerships also may be formed for strategic reasons such as the American Booksellers Association, a non-profit trade association that represents the owners of independent bookstores (Barringer & Harrison, 2000).”

The original source, the blog shows, appeared in the Journal of Management in 2000 with much the same wording: “More loosely coupled alliances may be formed for similar strategic reasons. For example, the American Booksellers Association is a not-for-profit trade association that represents the owners of independent bookstores.”

Harrison, who co-authored the 2000 article, said that it’s not unusual for academics to “paraphrase a couple of paragraphs” and credit each other. “However, in my opinion Annette has gone far beyond what is acceptable … she did not use quotations where she should have, and it appears that she did not even include citations for much of what she took from our article.”

MnSCU’s statement of support is worthless in light of this specific example of President Parker’s use of similar phrasing in her dissertation.

“We support all our outstanding presidents” doesn’t mean anything when the accuser presents irrefutable proof of a president’s plagiarism. At that point, “We support all our outstanding presidents” sounds more like spin than anything.

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