In the WCU student handbook, (Ram’s Eye View), plagiarism is defined as “copying another’s work or portions thereof and/or using ideas and concepts of another and presenting them as one’s own without giving proper credit to the source.” While cheating is assumed to be an everyday practice of students anyway, the penalties can be severe if you are caught, including expulsion from the university.Surprisingly, there is an interesting tie to an upcoming election right here in Chester County: the race for Congress in the 6th District, which includes parts of Chester County and parts of Berks and Montco. Here’s the background info: last February, Democratic candidate for Congress Lois Murphy visited a political science class at Ursinus College, a northern neighbor to WCU in Collegeville. She proposed the “CLEAN House Pledge,” an ethics reform for Congress. Not a bad idea, right? In an online press release on her webpage, (http://www.loismurphy.org), Murphy refers to the plan as ‘her’ pledge. She called on her opponent, Republican Jim Gerlach to sign on to the plan.
Yet, this pledge for clean ethics (http://www.loismurphy.org/pledge/pledge.pdf), which Murphy proposed in February, copys a plan of fellow Democrat congressional candidate, Francine Busby. She released a similar “pledge” (http://busbyforcongress.org/downloads/pressroom/20060111_pr_clean-office.pdf) earlier that January.
Ms. Murphy’s challenger, Republican candidate and incumbent Congressman Jim Gerlach challenged the Murphy campaign on this, calling it plagiarism, and at a college campus no less. The Murphy campaign initially responded by reaffirming credit to the candidate as the inventor of the ethics reform plan, but then said a week later that they were happy to “share” the plan. Now they are admitting that they used material from the Busby pledge. When all’s said and done, it’s a copy cat that’s been caught.
So some of you are probably saying, “So what? Ethics reform is ethics reform, right?” That may be true, and Congress could use quite a bit of it, but tell me how “ethical” is it to tout another’s plan as your own and for that matter, base another candidate’s congressional campaign on it? Latching on to some one else’s idea is what elections are all about, but at least give credit where credit is due.
There is considerable hypocrisy here because plagiarism is a serious issue on college campuses. It might not happen often, but students do in fact get expelled for copying other people’s work and touting it as their own. How much more can you merit this type of plagiarism from a candidate who comes to a university and claims a reform plan as her own? These are the actions of a candidate whose campaign is based on good ethics reform? It doesn’t make sense to me.
Anthony Maalouf is a senior majoring in political science with a minor in Spanish.