Is defining plagiarism “like catching smoke in a butterfly net?” Towson professor under investigation
Earlier this month, we brought you the story of a paper in a journal about business ethics being retracted for — wait for it — plagiarism. The paper that seemed to be the one in question — see the post for why that was a bit unclear — was by Benjamin A. Neil, a professor at Towson University in Maryland.
Today, the Baltimore Sun reports that Neil is under investigation by Towson for more alleged plagiarism, and has “resigned his post as the head of the city school system’s ethics panel.” From the Sun:
A Baltimore Sun review of five papers published by Neil shows passages with identical language and others with close similarities to scholarly journals, news publications, congressional testimony, blogs and websites. In many cases, there was no attribution.
Neil, who has taught at Towson for more than 20 years, says he properly attributed work from other authors.
“I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong,” said Neil, 62. “The issue seems to be that I didn’t put things in quotes. But I’ve given attribution to people.”
Towson was made aware on March 18 of the potential plagiarism by University of Colorado, Denver librarian Jeffrey Beall, who first wrote about Neil’s paper in The Journal of Academic and Business Ethics in late February. What he found in that paper prompted him to look at others. Three have now been retracted, in addition to the JABE paper:
- Neil, Benjamin A., and Neil, Brian A. (2012). Juvenile offenders and the death penalty in the United States. Journal of International Business and Cultural Studies 6: 1-10.
- Neil, Benjamin, and Seganish, W. Michael. (2011). Life without parole sentence for juvenile offenders: Loggins v. Thomas in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit No. 09-13267. Journal of Business Cases and Applications 5: 1-6.
- Neil, Benjamin A., and Neil, Brian A. (2012). Social Networking and Civil Discovery. Journal of Business Cases & Applications, 6: 1-6.
According to the Sun, Michael P. May, Neil’s attorney
described the professor as an “honest, ethical guy.” He said there was no “universally acceptable definition of plagiarism” and that “attempting to pin this down is like catching smoke in a butterfly net.”
What an interesting turn of phrase. We wonder if we’ve heard it before.