Verschwiemelt

Bloated, swollen, such as one’s face after a long riotous night, or this post.

After investigating for five months, the anonymous blogger who posted instances of Schludrigkeit that he found (on 92 of 326 pages) in Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan’s doctoral thesis has now been confirmed by a report published the next day by the University of Düsseldorf’s expert evaluator. The university report’s author found 60 questionable citations (on 351 pages?) and “recognizes ‘the characteristic pattern of a plagiaristic approach,’” reported Spiegel-Online, which also noted that the anonymous blogger’s report is a “triumph of the plagiarism hunters.” Some political folks said Schavan’s doctorate shouldn’t be taken away because e.g. “there are clearer cases that haven’t been revoked.” Others say if the University of Düsseldorf decides to rescind the 32-year-old degree, then Annette Schavan must step down as federal Education Minister. The media can’t help reprinting statements in support of academic rigor that Schavan made when the doctoral thesis of young charismatic aristocratic Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (FDP) was discovered to contain plagiarism. A Spiegel-Online comparison of the two cases certainly generates some sympathy for Annette Schavan. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s family is worth ca. 400 million euros and he grew up in a castle. He took a long time to finish his doctoral thesis (in law) and said later he didn’t have enough time for footnotes. Grade: summa cum laude. Annette Schavan was the first in her family to go to university and finished her doctorate quite early, magna cum laude. Guttenberg was working during the cut-and-paste Internet era with search engines; Schavan had to find her texts in underfunded German university libraries and wrote her thesis on a typewriter. On the other hand, the Guttenberg situation is indicative that a deeper institutional problem exists.

The anonymous blogger who published first faxed reporters that “The facts are the facts. Even verschwiemelt Schavanesque excuses won’t change that.”

On 16 Oct. 2012 the responsible University of Düsseldorf committee met for three hours, but Annette Schavan unleashed lawyers and the university has been forbidden to make any information about this public without her permission. The university’s rector announced this and apologized. He also said they only advanced as far as the preliminary investigation (Vorprüfung). The university announced that it will take extra time to check Schavan’s thesis because it was interdisciplinary, its age means more of the sources will only be available on paper (and will have to be ordered from Germany’s amazingly cash-strapped university libraries and their interestingly historic systems), and evaluators are going to have to make sure they can be fair in “thinking themselves back” into the state of knowledge that prevailed thirty years ago.

I think German universities are state-funded? Surely though they must be susceptible in some ways to financial pressure from federal ministers, particularly the Minister of Education and Research. Crowdsourcing evaluation of politicians’ plagiarism seems like a very good idea in Germany right now.

(Fer SHVEE melt.)

2 thoughts on “Verschwiemelt

  1. It is absolutely outrageous that the University of Duesseldorf gave this report to the press BEFORE it was discussed by the committee in charge and BEFORE Annette Schavan got it. She had to ask for it! On an aside note, I couldn’t care less about what an anonymous blogger thinks about this work. Someone like that has no idea, and certainly no say about whether this is a valid Ph.D. or not. These people should do something useful in their spare time, such as drilling holes into their knees and put peas into them to make a ball bearing. (Just a suggestion, other things may also come to their minds.) Third, there is absolutely no way any more for the federal minister to put pressure on a university because of the relatively new legislation that, sadly, places the complete burden for university funding (and building!) on the states.

  2. Ah! Thanks, Christian, I was wondering about that last point. In the USA I would suspect there’d be “Forschung” funds that could be juiced or slowed down though. Does university research funding come through either private fundraising or a federal authority that’s separate from the Ministry of Education and Research or some third path that separate from the M of E&R?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: