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President Investigated After Anonymous Tip Alleges Plagiarism

March 29, 2018
 
 

Hobart and William Smith Colleges have begun an investigation after an anonymous emailer accused President Gregory J. Vincent of plagiarism in the 2004 dissertation he wrote to receive his doctorate in higher education.

The email, sent from an anonymous account and signed by “A Professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges,” was first sent March 21. It was addressed to reporters at two national publications, an Upstate New York newspaper, leaders at Hobart and William Smith, and leaders at the University of Pennsylvania, where Vincent received his Ed.D. The anonymous writer forwarded the email to publications focusing on U.S. higher education Tuesday.

The tipster identified several passages of the dissertation that contained direct quotations that were not properly attributed, the email said. Inside Higher Ed was able to check three of those cases. In each, the dissertation contains sentences that are identical or largely identical to language in other works but are not enclosed in quotation marks. The dissertation passages in question appear in paragraphs, however, that contain parenthetical citations to the original works.

Vincent continues to perform all presidential duties, according to a spokeswoman at Hobart and William Smith. She also provided a statement from Thomas S. Bozzuto, chair of the institution’s Board of Trustees.

“Hobart and William Smith Colleges are aware of the allegations in the anonymous email and are committed to thoroughly and seriously investigating them,” the statement said. “This process to examine the issue fully and fairly has already begun.”

The anonymous emailer did not respond to a request for comment. The email disavows any desire to comment further.

An example of the language in question can be found on p. 26 of Vincent’s dissertation:

… combination of government and private action (Massy and Denton, 1993). Hyper segregation may be conceptualized in terms of five distinct dimensions of geographic variation. Blacks may be distributed so that they are overrepresented in some areas and underrepresented in others, leading to different degrees of unevenness; they may also be distributed so that their racial isolation is ensured by virtue of rarely sharing a neighborhood with whites. In addition, however, black neighborhoods may be tightly clustered to form one large contiguous enclave or scattered about in checkerboard fashion; they may be concentrated within a very small area or settled sparsely throughout the urban environment. Finally, they may be spatially centralized around the urban core or spread out along the periphery (Massy, and Denton, 1993).

That is largely the same language that appears on p. 74 of the 1993 work cited in the parentheticals, American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass, by Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton:

In fact, segregation -- or the general tendency for blacks and whites to live apart -- may be conceptualized in terms of five distinct dimensions of geographic variation. The first two have already been discussed: blacks may be distributed so that they are overrepresented in some areas and underrepresented in others, leading to different degrees of unevenness; they may also be distributed so that their racial isolation is ensured by virtue of rarely sharing a neighborhood with whites. In addition, however, black neighborhoods may be tightly clustered to form one large contiguous enclave or scattered about in checkerboard fashion; they may be concentrated within a very small area or settled sparsely throughout the urban environment. Finally, they may be spatially centralized around the urban core or spread out along the periphery.

Another dissertation passage Inside Higher Ed reviewed begins in a sentence immediately after a citation of the work where the language appears to have originated. The third is in a paragraph with citations of both the work where the language appears to have originated and another work, although the language is separated from each citation by several sentences.

Vincent, called a national expert on social justice and civil rights, became president at Hobart and William Smith in 2017.

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