Board decision on MVP plagiarism issue dishonorable— Ateneo faculty

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 15 2010 11:37 AM | Updated as of Apr 20 2010 01:11 AM

MANILA, Philippines – In a strongly worded statement, the faculty, administrators and staff of the Ateneo de Manila University said they “strongly disagree” with the decision of the Board of Trustees to refuse its chairman’s offer to retire following a plagiarism issue.

The 40 signatories of the statement said the offer of Manuel V. Pangilinan to retire from his official duties in the university, including his role as Chairman of the board, is honorable, but the Board’s decision was not.

“Accepting Mr. Pangilinan’s offer to retire would have allowed him and the University to move on from this unfortunate incident. Mr. Pangilinan’s offer to retire was an honorable act. Not accepting Mr. Pangilinan’s offer to retire dishonors that action,” the statement said.

MVP not a lesser person if allowed to retire—Ateneo faculty

MANILA, Philippines – Businessman Manuel Pangilinan will not be a lesser person if the Board of Trustees of Ateneo de Manila University accepted his offer to retire following a plagiarism issue, according to faculty members.

“Accepting Mr. Pangilinan's offer to retire does not diminish our regard for his person and for his contributions to society and to the University,” said 40 signatories in a statement released Wednesday evening.

“Not accepting his offer to retire, on the other hand, seriously undermines the academic integrity of the Ateneo de Manila University,” they added. READ MORE 

Pangilinan offered to retire after portions of the commencement speech he delivered to graduating university students last March 26 were found to have been lifted from those previously delivered by US President Barack Obama, TV host Oprah Winfrey and children's author JK Rowling. He took full responsibility of the plagiarism issue even if his speech writers committed it.

Higher standard

The retirement offer from Pangilinan and the Board’s decision not to accept it puts the school in an “awkward situation,” the signatories said, because “there is a claim of responsibility without accountability.”

The signatories stressed that plagiarism is a serious issue since these are “violations of intellectual integrity.”

“As an academic institution, the Ateneo de Manila University should take cases of plagiarism very seriously as these are violations of intellectual integrity... In fact, a higher standard must apply in this instance because Mr. Pangilinan is the Chairman of our Board and as such, he is the co-head of the University along with our President,” according to the statement. They said that Pangilinan, as a representative of the university, sits on stage at commencement exercises and academic convocations—
two of the most sacred rites of the academe.

Ateneo treats plagiarism committed by a student as a "major offense."

According to the school's Code of Discipline for Students, "committing intellectual dishonesty, which is defined as passing off someone else's work as one's own," falls under "Offenses Involving Dishonesty."
Penalties for major offenses include disciplinary probation, mandatory work, formation sessions, public reprimand, suspension, dismissal, or expulsion

They said the same standards should have been applied to Pangilinan.

“As a University, we should have applied the standards we usually apply to cases of plagiarism, the same standards we use in handling acts of intellectual dishonesty among our students, staff, professionals and faculty.”

These standards, the signatories said, were meant to teach accepting responsibility when violations of intellectual integrity, like plagiarism, are committed, and to accept the consequences.

“But in this case, there is a claim of responsibility without accountability,” they noted.

No moral high ground

Business ethics professor Andrew Crane told abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak that there was no moral high ground in the decision of the Board not to accept the offer of Pangilinan to retire.

“We expect, and need, our universities to reclaim the moral high ground. Ateneo has not demonstrated that it is willing to do this,” Andrew Crane, a business ethics professor at York University in Canada, wrote abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak in an email.

“Ateneo should be taking this opportunity to reinforce its commitment to academic integrity, and making a stand about the importance of tackling plagiarism, not spending its efforts convincing the disgraced businessman to reconsider his desicion to resign,” Crane shared.

He added that plagiarism is cheating.

After the plagiarism issue broke, bloggers found more speeches previously delivered by Pangilinan to have also lifted portions from others.

Batch 2010

The plagiarism issue has created a lot of buzz in the blogs and social networks, and filled opinion pages in Manila.

The Ateneo's graduating class, however, agreed with the decision of the Board not to accept Pangilinan's retirement offer.

In an official response posted at the university's web site, batch's student council president Gregorio Ramon Tingson said "Batch 2010 would like you to know that like Father Ben (Nebres, university president), we understand that this incident has caused much personal embarrassment and pain on your part."

"The Batch would have to disagree with your decision of retiring from your duties in the Ateneo, especially for the Ateneo community," it said.

"Speaking in behalf of the alumni and undergraduates of the university, we indeed recognize that you are very much valued by the Ateneo community; so much so that it is believed we are fully equipped in moving on, learning, and going forward from this whole regrettable occurrence," the letter added