The University of Oklahoma, like every higher education institution in the country, is opposed to plagiarism. So why did the home of the Sooners invite admitted plagiarist Fareed Zakaria to deliver the class of 2013's commencement address after the CNN anchor and Time plagiarism scandal?
In a statement announcing Zakaria's selection, University of Oklahoma President David Boren insisted that, “Fareed Zakaria is truly an educator…he uses his forum through the public media to educate a worldwide audience about the important issues we all confront and how we can work together to meet them.” Yes, he sure does, especially when he lifts other people’s work to convey his point of view.
Last summer, Zakaria lifted material from Jill Lepore of the New Yorker in his column about gun control almost verbatim. Here’s a paragraph from his Time piece:
Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA, documents the actual history in Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. Guns were regulated in the U.S. from the earliest years of the Republic. Laws that banned the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813. Other states soon followed: Indiana in 1820, Tennessee and Virginia in 1838, Alabama in 1839 and Ohio in 1859. Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas (Texas!) explained in 1893, the "mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man."
Compare that in its organization to this paragraph from a Jill Lepore New Yorker article from April:
As Adam Winkler, a constitutional-law scholar at U.C.L.A., demonstrates in a remarkably nuanced new book, “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” firearms have been regulated in the United States from the start. Laws banning the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, and other states soon followed: Indiana (1820), Tennessee and Virginia (1838), Alabama (1839), and Ohio (1859). Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man."
Zakaria didn’t cite Lepore, and according to no less an authority than the school's office of the provost, that's the sort of plagiarism frowned on at the University of Oklahoma:
Plagiarism is a form of academic misconduct in which you represent someone else's words or ideas as your own. The basic expectation in every class is that whatever you write will be your own words, generated from your own understanding. Therefore it is acceptable to incorporate someone else's words in your paper only if you clearly indicate the words are someone else's.
For someone who is “truly an educator,” it seems Zakaria's skills are more in line with copying, than writing.
Some graduating students - like senior Doug McKnight, who informed us of this development -- are not attending commencement, but they aren’t missing much. After all, it's quite likely Zakaria delivered the same address at Duke and Harvard in 2012.