Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

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Busytown: A turn-up for the books

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  • Craig Ranapia,

    Regarding the "drug cheat" analogy, I got the impression from the way the article was worded that the journalist actually put that analogy to O'Sullivan and he agreed - rather than O'Sullivan volunteering it as an analogy.

    Ngaire: Fair point, but I still think O'Sullivan had some damn good points to make and nice to see another creative writer/academic GETS IT.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    The only problem with the sports doping analogy is that it presumes that the practice enhances the performance. In fact, as both Nicholas Reid and I pointed out, the borrowings were part of what bogged the novel down.

    I think it's more like going to a flash restaurant with a big name chef, and then discovering that the hors d'oeuvres came out of a tin, and the sauces came from the supermarket. And, in this case, the dessert came from the much less famous joint down the road, where they take great pride in their family recipe.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1427 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    Waiter! There are dark purple spheres in my soup!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    An e-mail from the Vice-Chancellor of Auckland University to staff and students, which has arrived in my inbox from several sources.

    I am communicating directly with staff and students on the matter concerning Professor Witi Ihimaera which has received considerable media publicity. Much of the public comment has been ill-informed and made in ignorance of the facts. This is notwithstanding our explanations to the media of how this matter was handled and the procedures involved.

    On 3 November, Professor Ihimaera alerted the University to claims of plagiarism against him which were being investigated by the Listener. In accordance with the University's "Guidelines for the Conduct of Research (Part 2, Procedures for Dealing with Concerns of Misconduct in Research)" his Head of Department, Professor Tom Bishop, then conducted a preliminary assessment of the allegations. This found that a small amount of material in Professor Ihimaera's novel, The Trowenna Sea, had been published without attribution or acknowledgement. On the basis of his review of the material of concern and Professor Ihimaera's response, Professor Bishop concluded that the material had been inadvertently included in the novel without proper acknowledgement and that the instances were not sufficient to constitute misconduct as defined in these Procedures.

    Plagiarism in any form is unacceptable and Professor Ihimaera has publicly acknowledged that he erred in using unattributed passages as he did. He has repeatedly apologised in public and is taking appropriate steps to remedy his error. The book has been withdrawn from sale at considerable financial cost to Professor Ihimaera. This will enable him to undertake a review of the text and to check it against the sources upon which he drew. The review will determine the acknowledgements and referencing to be included in a future edition of the book.

    There have been claims in the media that Professor Ihimaera has been treated leniently and that a severe sanction, including dismissal, should have been imposed. It is also being said that different standards would have applied to a student in the same position. These claims are patently untrue. Students and staff are subject to essentially the same policies and procedures in cases of alleged plagiarism. The University does not condone plagiarism, but recognises the need to take into account a range of factors such as intention, seriousness and extent. Were a small amount of unattributed material to be discovered in a doctoral thesis, for example, the student would be required to rewrite the thesis with appropriate attribution - precisely the action Professor Ihimaera will be taking of his own volition.

    The University deplores plagiarism in any form and has robust processes for dealing with allegations of academic misconduct by either staff or students. The University's approved process for addressing allegations of staff misconduct in research was followed scrupulously in this case. To do otherwise would be to breach Professor Ihimaera's rights as an employee of the University.


    Stuart N. McCutcheon

    Vice-Chancellor

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1427 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Were a small amount of unattributed material to be discovered in a doctoral thesis, for example, the student would be required to rewrite the thesis with appropriate attribution - precisely the action Professor Ihimaera will be taking of his own volition...

    A decision he took several days after the university had publicly stated that there was no problem so far as they were concerned.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7404 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Waiter! There are dark purple spheres in my soup!

    Shh! Everyone will want some!

    So, I just illuminated the issues for listeners to the ZB network, and will be discussing the story on Checkpoint this evening, on Radio NZ (not sure what time exactly).

    And it's official, at least according to TVNZ: I'm sad. But we knew that.

    Oh, and: if anyone reading this could figure out how to convene it, I would absolutely love to hear a round-table of novelists talking about their process, especially when it comes to integrating research into a historical novel. I'm thinking Paula Morris, Rachael King, Tania Roxburgh, CK Stead... it would be fascinating, eh?

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1427 posts Report Reply

  • richard,

    I am communicating directly with staff and students on the matter concerning Professor Witi Ihimaera which has received considerable media publicity. Much of the public comment has been ill-informed and made in ignorance of the facts. This is notwithstanding our explanations to the media of how this matter was handled and the procedures involved.

    Those pesky media. Just won't listen.

    On 3 November, Professor Ihimaera alerted the University to claims of plagiarism against him which were being investigated by the Listener. In accordance with the University's "Guidelines for the Conduct of Research (Part 2, Procedures for Dealing with Concerns of Misconduct in Research)" his Head of Department, Professor Tom Bishop, then conducted a preliminary assessment of the allegations. This found that a small amount of material in Professor Ihimaera's novel, The Trowenna Sea, had been published without attribution or acknowledgement. On the basis of his review of the material of concern and Professor Ihimaera's response, Professor Bishop concluded that the material had been inadvertently included in the novel without proper acknowledgement and that the instances were not sufficient to constitute misconduct as defined in these Procedures.

    And at no point did the good professor think to ask (or, heaven forbid, check himself) whether the unattributed passages accounted for the full extent of the copying.

    This is the part I can't understand. I have been involved with investigations of academic dishonesty (never as a potential perpetrator, I hasten to add) and I simply cannot imagine that the investigation would not include checking for extra, unattributed material. (And, no matter how smart and how diligent Jolisa might be, what are the odds that anyone would catch all the plagiarized passages while writing an article on deadline?)

    It is hard not to suspect that Auckland rushed this process because they knew that the Listener was running a story on it, and if they had conducted a properly diligent investigation they could not have "exonerated" Ihimaera quickly enough to chime in with the statement from Penguin.

    Ironically, in doing so -- by giving even the appearance of a rushed job -- they have probably done Ihimaera (and themselves) far more harm than if they had simply said, "We're looking into it, get back to us when we're done."

    Moreover, I would give a lot to see the emails that must have flown around the Auckland campus that week, and to learn at what point the University's public affairs people because involved in the discussion of what (should be) a purely academic and dispassionate investigation.

    But if this is Auckland's idea of how to "manage" a PR debacle (and that might have included some advice about whether to accept a $50k prize while you should still be at looking at least publicly contrite) it is almost as worrying a symptom of organizational malaise as the initial investigation.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 260 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Those pesky media. Just won't listen.

    To be fair, it's fucking hard to listen to someone who won't show up and say anything. "No comment" is a perfectly legitimate response to media enquiries, but don't come back afterwards and bitch that your side of the story ("the facts", as McCutcheon puts it) isn't getting play.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Were a small amount of unattributed material to be discovered in a doctoral thesis, for example, the student would be required to rewrite the thesis with appropriate attribution - precisely the action Professor Ihimaera will be taking of his own volition...

    As Gio said

    A decision he took several days after the university had publicly stated that there was no problem so far as they were concerned.

    And that is precisely my problem with the University on this issue. If it was a PhD thesis the student would be told to fix it and told they would not be getting their degree if they didn't fix it.

    An equivalent statement to Prof. Ihimaera would have required him to withdraw the book and correct the "error" and if he didn't he wouldn't be getting his salary.

    All of that of course would and should have been private and the public statement should have said "we are taking this seriously and taking steps to ensure the standards and reputation of The University are being upheld."

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3444 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Jolisa actually explained that dimension quite nicely in this morning's radio interview.

    Which still languishes unlinked? Here, then: streaming 5m18, MP3 1.9MB.

    Oh, and look, the subsequent discussion featuring Prof Sorrenson, Sophia Blair of NZUSA and Simon Bowden from the Arts Foundation - streaming 21m27, MP3 7.4MB.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    It is also being said that different standards would have applied to a student in the same position. These claims are patently untrue.

    Judging by those passages we were quoted earlier from the student handbook saying that "inadvertent" was no defense, the Chancellor of Vice is talking through another orifice. Nice intellectual property allusion, but.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Retwiti

    Word o year?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    One postgrad paper I did a few years back required all work go through "Turnitin" a plagarism checking website.
    Also handy to find good sources.

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1147 posts Report Reply

  • Heather W.,

    The book has been withdrawn from sale at considerable financial cost to Professor Ihimaera.

    The last phrasing I'd heard was that he was "planning to buy back unsold copies". It was still available at The Warehouse yesterday - Fishpond has it though Whitcoulls and PaperPlus now list as unavailable on their websites. Biblioz has it but very expensive.

    Penguin still had it listed with no withdraw message when I looked 10 mins ago - with this quote.

    Witi Ihimaera returns from rewriting his early books with this brand-new novel, a compelling historical drama that places one of New Zealand's master storytellers at the height of his powers.

    North Shore • Since Nov 2008 • 187 posts Report Reply

  • JoJo,

    "planning to buy back unsold copies".

    Cynically, I'm wondering if these copies will count towards the Premier Bestsellers, which get gold/silver/bronze stickers on the front cover...

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 95 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    one of New Zealand's master storytellers at the height of his powers

    Craig prompted this response yesterday from Margaret Soltan:

    The pathetic plagiarist has no faith in his ability to write well. At his core is a deep self-doubt; and the more success the pathetic plagiarist enjoys, the deeper his self-doubt becomes, and the more he plagiarizes. In other words, he has always felt himself to be a hoax, a fraud, and turns to plagiarism because he sincerely believes himself incapable of valuable independent work.

    Sad, alright.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Appropriation absolves all sins

    really?
    finders keepers, huh?
    the final absolution is here...

    there does seem to be an element
    of technology enabling people...
    but just 'cause we can
    doesn't mean we should

    and analogies to drug cheats
    might really be more
    grand theft organ...

    yrs
    the laughing genome

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5092 posts Report Reply

  • Ngaire BookieMonster,

    The last phrasing I'd heard was that he was "planning to buy back unsold copies". It was still available at The Warehouse yesterday - Fishpond has it though Whitcoulls and PaperPlus now list as unavailable on their websites. Biblioz has it but very expensive.

    I think technically he's buying back the warehouse stock - that means stock that Penguin has, or possibly is being returned to them, but Penguin was not insisting on a return - so that part is up to the individual retailers.

    At the foot of Mt Te Aroh… • Since Nov 2009 • 173 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    Sacha I think that Margaret Soltan just called Witi an Oedipus Rex.

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1147 posts Report Reply

  • Heather W.,

    Thanks Ngaire.

    So Prof I. is seen as making amends - it's not his fault that the distributor is making the recall voluntary. The plus is that he is likely to sell more books due to the publicity and the perceived rarity value. Can ship it again with an errata with the 16 "errors" and a couple more that he has found and can still be ahead this financial year.

    Before I go into full cynic mode, I thought the editorial in the Southland Times on Thursday worded things nicely.

    North Shore • Since Nov 2008 • 187 posts Report Reply

  • Rachaelking,

    Why do authors like Ihimaera and McEwan have to write books that require research and the use of other people's writing? Had they stuck to writing contemporary fiction they would have done so in their own words and not become plagiarists.

    McEwan's novel after Atonement was the contemporary novel Saturday, which was written from the point of view of a brain surgeon. Don't you think he might have needed to do a bit of research on that?

    Since Nov 2009 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    "Guidelines for the Conduct of Research"

    Hang on, how is a novel "research"? Indeed, what is the university's standing in any of this? I'm assuming that Prof. I's contract probably allows him to write books in his own time, and that isn't part of the teaching and research he does for the university.

    (Ok, so he may have a disrepute clause, but that isn't what they are saying).

    Now, my point on this is that some work, from student essays up to postdoc publications, partly or fully exists in order to establish the capabilities of the author. So plagiarism is clearly a problem because it removes that linkage - the work isn't the author's own, so it doesn't establish their ability.

    But a novel isn't that. The only warranty implied when you pick it up in Whitcoulls is that the pages have ink on them. The purchaser may or may not find it entertaining, thought-provoking or informative. They aren't however, making a judgement as to whether to employ the author in any capacity.

    There are some forms of creative work where unacknowledged borrowing is standard, dance music for instance. Not to mention the whole issue of ghostwriters. Should Churchill and his publisher have noted that many of his books were largely written by teams of assistants?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4484 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    What isn't teaching is research - or publication, really.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    What isn't teaching is research - or publication, really.

    Precisely. After Jolisa asked the question here I asked a friend at Victoria, and that's pretty much what he said.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7404 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    What isn't teaching is research - or publication, really.

    So Auckland Uni gets Witi's royalties and pays him a salary in return?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4484 posts Report Reply

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