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Debat and Poshard and Drake
September 15, 2007 - 7:09am



Messrs. Debat and Poshard and Drake

Have jolted the ed-world awake:

Poshard steals words,

The chancellor's absurd,

And Debat's an out-and-out fake.

Yes, it's been a busy week in the academic blogosphere, and UD's just trying to keep up. Three high-profile characters - a university chancellor, a university president, and a Senior Fellow at UD's own university, George Washington - have been brought low through the politicization of academic appointments, multiple acts of plagiarism, and faked credentials.

In their range of misdeeds, these men cover a good deal of campus malfeasance territory, for when scholarly types go bad, they tend to go bad in one of these directions: they substitute ideology for intellectuality, or they compromise in their work the supreme value of originality, or they misrepresent themselves.

In all three sorts of cases, UD thinks the word fakery covers things pretty well. That is, we rely upon the university perhaps more than any other cultural institution to embody authenticity, to produce untainted thought, to make honest administrative decisions, and to harbor authentic scholars. It doesn't always do this, of course, but the glory of the American public and private university system lies in how often it in fact does. Compared to almost any other country's universities, ours have remarkable integrity.

We can thank this week's bungling triumverate, then, for reminding us of the special feelings we bring to universities, the way in which we tend to suspend the cynical assumptions we bring to so many other institutions (the press, Congress, whatever) when it comes to higher ed. Indeed one measure of the intensity of our desire to think well of our universities is the speed with which these men are being broadly condemned. Their stories are big stories, covered nationally. One - Debat - is already out on his ass. Poshard may well have to resign. And there's beginning to be noise about Drake resigning too.

Are these over-reactions? In the case of Drake only, UD does wonder whether he's done enough wrong to warrant dismissal. It's possible to imagine him finally deciding to describe fully and openly the steps by which he disastrously fired the incoming dean of UC Irvine's new law school. But Debat's one sick puppy; and Glenn Poshard of Southern Illinois University, the most destructive of the lot with his shabby plagiarizing of his Master's and PhD. theses, should certainly exit.


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