Friday, April 25, 2008

FIRE: TSL Plagiarizes Again, Researches Sloppily

Let's get my allegations out of the way quick.

1. The subtitle of Janet Ma's piece, "Group Said to Threaten Legal Action Against 5Cs" comes directly from this article from The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. By the way, Mr. Ma, when you don't reference someone from whom you've gotten information, it's called plagiarism.

2. It's also inaccurate and has been refuted and explained on FIRE's blog. FIRE has not once litigated a case. They have a core group of lawyers that would take up a case should one arise.

Hey, at least, TSL is consistent. Gotta give 'em that much.


Before we begin analyzing the article, let's bring everyone up to speed. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a group dedicated to defending student liberty. Its co-founder, UPenn Professor Alan Charles Kors, just received the Bradley Prize for Defense of Free Speech, and its members include some of the most distinguished attorneys and thinkers in the country.

As a student at my former prep school, I contacted Dr. Kors and started receiving their email alerts and legal material.

They've been an invaluable research for me as I probe into the morality and legality of the conduct of some student administrators with respect to free speech and they've written a letter to all of the Presidents of the Claremont Colleges to respect free speech on campus.

I've already written about the bias-related incidents and their free speech implications already. Here, here, here, and here.

I've also written about numerous hate crimes or bias-related incidents on the campuses that also weren't hate crimes or bias-related incidents when the facts emerged. You can read about those incidents here, here, here, here, and here.

My personal favorite is Stanley Crouch, a former Claremont College professor from 1968 to 1975, who said that it was not uncommon for black students to send themselves racist material when they wanted to manipulate the campus debate.


Now we clearly have a problem at the Claremont Colleges where The Student Life distorts what actually happens to advance its own agenda. For that reason, Dean Wood always give them quotations because she knows that TSL will spin it favorably on her behalf. You might remember Dean Debra Wood from earlier in the year when she overreacted to the Claremont McKenna White Part and effectively called all of the Class of 2010 "racists."

Here's what TSL quotes Dean Debra Wood as saying about FIRE.

It is clear that [FIRE] did not read what we wrote and why entirely, nor understand it," Wood said. "We support free speech and I had acknowledged that right to free speech in my email to the Scripps community. [But] free speech do not give us the right to alter others' property with our thoughts and beliefs."

Putting aside the grammar problems, Dean Wood just lied to TSL. In the first place, let's take a look at what Dean Wood actually said back in February.

While principles of free speech may protect these students' rights to advertise in this manner, free speech is best exercised with common sense, intelligence and sensitivity. I am saddened and dismayed , and angered, that students in the year 2008 would use this kind advertising to promote a party.


I urge any other campus which received these invites to take a similar stand against racism and sexism and communicate their anger and dismay to the CMC Class of 2010 through appropriate ways- such as not attending the party, writing letters to the class leadership and/or student news papers, and refusing to tolerate this kind of treatment of members of our communities.
A logical person who read that last gerund phrase as indicating some kind of threat. After all what are "appropriate ways" to "refuse to tolerate this kind of treatment of members of our communities"?

Wood then says that "free speech rights do not give us the right to alter others' property with our thoughts or beliefs."

Notice what she is doing here. She tries to conflate the destruction of property common to many graffiti crimes with her attack on the Class of 2010 for distributing fliers she found to be offensive. Dean Wood knows well that the subject of FIRE's response was her email to all 5-Cs involving the White Party. There was no physical damage done by the leaf letters as she knows well, but you wouldn't know that if you just read her quotation.

Dean Wood continues and defines bias incidents for us. (Ellipses and brackets are from TSL.)

"Bias incidents are . . . anonymous expressions of beliefs or thoughts usually in the form of vansalism -- writing on a hall wall, another student's door, someone else's poster. The Constitution does not protect those acts," Wood said. "[And] remember, we have free speech as well and are members of the community."
And this woman passed the bar? Dean Wood, who has never been questioned seriously over her email calling the Class of 2010 racist, is not only trying to conflate the issues around vandalism, but she's also lying to you about what the Constitution protects. (The Leonard Law also protects that speech and goes entirely unmentioned in the article.)

If she knew anything, she'd know that writing "Hillary is a foxy lesbian" on your own white board does not constitute "vandalism." Nor, do I think, writing it on another student's white board. (There's no property damage and you can always erase it.)

Meanwhile, President Oxtoby, as always, gives us a weak statement on the importance of free speech.
"We're not trying to reduce or cut back on free speech," Oxtoby said. "We're not going to stop you from saying anything you want to, but recognize that when you say something or do something it has consequences on other people."

That's funny. Oxtoby says they aren't going to do anything to you if you speak up. Little does he know that few students are going to speak out with the cards stacked against them and a fear that Dean Wood or whoever will stick a permanent black letter in their file.

Oxtoby tries to downplay, but we all know its true. After all, the consequences seem to only be for the people who speak out and not the people who overreact.

I guess the incident involving two football players who were intimidated and threatened by Pomona Dean of Women DID NOT happen.

I also guess the expulsion of a Claremont McKenna student in 1997 for writing a newsletter DID NOT happen.


Gracchus said...

Putting aside the grammar problems, Dean Wood just lied to TSL. In the first place, let's take a look at what Dean Wood actually said back in February.

Bemoaning someone for poor grammar usage online is tactless at best, but I suppose the grammarians at the Claremont Conservative could benefit from brushing off Strunk and White themselves:

Its their way of saying if alums complain, "hey, we just suspended song."

Yes, artistic and academic merit will be inherently subjective -- though I'd wager not as much as some might argue -- but I find its much better than digging into a past we cannot control.

Its Radical Universal Health Care vs. Less Radical Universal Health Care at Pomona next week.

But as for the rest of it, its an exercise in food protectionism.

Its really shaping up to be Pomona's week.

Juxtapose that with the pay for use water system of the U.K. and its easy to see which one is the more environmentally friendly.

Maybe its time groups like The Campus Climate Challenge realized that there's a difference between weekly reminders and coercion, that students are cheated out of their pockets when promised services are taken away or compromised for their noble cause.

Let me know if it is too difficult for you.

Charles Johnson said...

Many thanks, Gracchus. Now do you have a substantive point?

Charles Johnson said...

You do realize we're a blog and not a school funded, student paid publication, right?

Anonymous said...

I fail to see how that's relevant. Generally, when people hold others to a standard they do not follow themselves, it looks rather foolish at best and completely hypocritical at worst.

Anonymous said...

How did you get the plagiarism bit? The headline on the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reads "Group faults colleges over speech issues" which might be similar, but is certainly not the same, as the sub-headline in TSL. Did you consider that it could have come about by mere coincidence, given the articles' similar content. I would also point you to the fact that the headline from the Daily Bulletin does not discuss legal action, a point you make later in your blog post. That's a little weak.

Anonymous said...

Plagiarism? Get real. No one has a monopoly on the word "group."

Charles Johnson said...

On the hypocrisy charges, I'm not getting paid to do this job -- and believe me it is a job! TSL writers and editors are paid by Pomona. (Talk about a conflict of interest when you write a story!)

It's not the headline I was questioning. It's the content of the article. Some of the phrases and facts could not have been obtained without first consulting the IVDB. TSL has a history of making it look like they were the first ones to do the ground breaking research when really all they used was Google News alerts.

I should know. I get them too.

TSL writers, in the big leagues, you actually acknowledge where you got the information. It's called intellectual honesty.

Anonymous said...

Ok, lets consider the rest of the article. You are right, the article follows a "chillingly" similar form to that from the IVDB. DId you not see the link in the top of the IVDB to the letter from FIRE themselves? Both articles follow the structure of the letter from FIRE. Ignoring the boilerplate first paragraph, both articles address the second paragraph, then each article address the three separate events listed in the letter. From here the similarities end. Is it too much of a struggle to consider that since both articles wrote from the same source, that neither considered it pertinent to rearrange the order of FIRE's own letter. Perhaps the information (as cited in both articles) was simply taken from FIREs letter. That might be what you call research.