Friday, May 05, 2006

Moral Authority (Lack Thereof) 

I wasn't going to touch this topic about a CEO plagiarizing another's work. Plenty of commentators had dumped on him . But, a former colleague wrote and suggested I blog about it, and a current colleague told me a story that was as amazing as a CEO stealing another's work. Her husband, who teaches for a university, caught a student plagiarizing from an article her husband had written. Plagiary is the sincerest form of flattery?

What motivated me to write is loss of moral authority that the CEO is suffering for his stupidity. How the hell can he look his subordinates in the eye and still lead the company? In fact, it seems to me he won't for much longer, if he has an ethical sense left. At the least, he owes a deep and sincere apology to everyone for his actions from the lowest clerk to the Pentagon with whom Raytheon has numerous contracts.

There appears to be an epidemic of plagiary. One author after another has been spotlighted in recent years, and as articles noted, the CEO was caught in his misdeeds at the same time as a hot young writer at Harvard University.

The internet has helped greatly in surfacing blatant copying. Millions of eyes now look at texts rather than dozens or hundreds in a traditional publishing cycle. And, people speak out on the internet and are heard as they might not have been before. On the other hand, the vast library of the internet makes copying easy to do.

Plagiary is a plague in universities and colleges where students apparently are still trying to learn ethics -- or maybe not. That is why there is a plagiarism resource site for professors to help them vet student work.

It's worrisome that so many feel they can steal intellectual property with impunity. It reflects badly on our culture.


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