Sunday, November 20, 2011

Derek Reeve qua Saddleback College instructor

     Earlier today, a DtB reader suggested that I consider Saddleback College Poli Sci instructor Derek Reeve’s conduct—namely, his plagiarism—in relation to the Saddleback College Student Handbook.
     OK. The relevant section of the college student handbook states that
Students may be disciplined for one or more of the following causes related to college activity or attendance: [A through R. Item P is] …Academic dishonesty....
     This is followed by points a, b, and c, which explain "academic dishonesty." Point b defines the form of academic dishonesty known as “plagiarism”:


     Obviously, based on the evidence—including admissions by Reeve—that has appeared in the press in recent months, Reeve plagiarized: on a community newsletter/blog, he engaged in political discourse or argument, repeatedly wielding ideas (or formulations of ideas) not his own but as though they were his own.
     But Reeve is not a student at Saddleback College and the Student Handbook is a handbook for Saddleback studentsOf course, I do not deny that the Handbook's code for students implies a standard regarding honesty that applies to others beyond students, including instructors. Perhaps this is what the reader had in mind. But, as we'll see, we need not rely on "implied" standards to see the problem with Reeve's conduct.
     Further, even if Reeve were a Saddleback College student, his plagiarism would not have been a disciplinable offense, since the Handbook's code refers only to student behavior "related to college activity or attendance." The college is unwilling to enforce its honesty code upon students in their lives beyond the college. This raises an interesting question: is there a reason that a college would be so willing in the case of other persons—e.g., professors?
     Reeve is, of course, a student at Claremont Graduate School, or so says his Saddleback profile. Previously (see On Derek Reeve's failure to be honest, Sept. 27), I unearthed the honesty code for CGS, and I suggested that he violated the spirit, if not the letter, of that standard.

* * *
     There is a code explicitly relevant to Reeve’s conduct re honesty/dishonesty insofar as he is a Saddleback College instructor; it is the college's Faculty Code of Ethics and Professionalism. In the aforementioned post, I wrote the following:

     ...As it turns out, a dozen years ago, Saddleback College faculty adopted a “Faculty Code of Ethics and Professional Standards.” It quotes a familiar American Association of University Professors statement:

"Professors, guided by a deep conviction of the worth and dignity of the advancement of knowledge, recognize the special responsibilities placed upon them. Their primary responsibility to their subject is to seek and to state the truth as they see it. To this end professors devote their energies to developing and improving their scholarly competence. They accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending, and transmitting knowledge. They practice intellectual honesty…." (AAUP Statement, 1990) [My emphasis.]

The Saddleback “code” goes on to require that

Faculty exhibit intellectual honesty and integrity in all scholarly endeavors.

     …Qua scholar and qua college faculty, Reeve is expected to be honest, and, obviously, one aspect of honesty is not passing off other’s writings and ideas as one’s own—even in less-than-scholarly settings. Jenna Chandler’s recent piece in the SJC Patch makes very clear that Mr. Reeve does exactly that—he passed off others’ ideas and writings as his own—and he has done so repeatedly. [End of quotation.]

     Observe that the prohibition against plagiarism, understood as a professional standard, does not restrict its scope to what one writes or says at one's college or even in academic settings. College professors are supposed to approach authorship honestly period, for they are to seek "the truth," employing competent methods. One who offers others' ideas as his own, even on a blog, is no seeker of truth. He is an enemy of that fine endeavor. 
     Further, academia is all about communities—such as communities of experts/scholars. The effort of some community of experts/scholars (re subject X) to arrive at understanding (re X) and to effectively communicate that understanding to the public is damaged when one of its members engages in discourse about X dishonestly, even in somewhat non-academic settings. That Mr. Reeve publicly argued his political theses fraudulentlyi.e., with plagiarized elementsundermined the larger enterprise of the community of political scientists and of scholars. Thus, a college, among other entities, has a good reason to concern itself with the honesty/dishonesty of its "experts," even when the dishonesty occurs outside the strict bounds of the Academy. 
     Especially given Reeve's unambiguous denial that he plagiarizeddespite his plainly having done soI concluded (in Sept.) that he "cannot be trusted to argue honestly; he certainly cannot be trusted to instill academic honesty in his students."
     In any case, it seems clear that Reeve violated the above codeSaddleback College's faculty code of professional ethics.

* * *
     So what is the college doing about that? What is the Academic Senate doing?
     Nothing, it appears.
     Sometimes, one's doing nothing amounts to one's plainly doing something—such as exhibiting one's actual values, despite official verbiage implying very different values.
     Again, SC's inaction contrasts with the action of Concordia U to (evidently) fire Reeve based on his failures of honesty. (See More clarity on Reeve and Concordia.)

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