An award for plagiarism

November 18th, 2009 at 7:47 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial says:

The Arts Foundation of New Zealand has created an embarrassment with one of its five “laureate” awards last night. Doubtless the decision to make one of the $50,000 awards to writer was made long before his latest novel was found to include at least 16 unattributed passages that appear to be substantially the work of others.

Doubtless, too, the selection panel operates at arm’s length from the foundation set up to assist and promote cultural achievement of the highest quality in this country. But in the week since a reviewer’s concerns were reported by the New Zealand Listener, somebody at the foundation should have intervened.

It is incredible they did not. Timing is everything.

Inevitably his earlier work will be examined for similar lapses. If none comes to light, and the integrity of his future writing is beyond reproach, this episode may be regarded as aberrant. But not yet. This is not the moment for him to be hailed as a leading exponent of his art.

It strains belief that the Arts Foundation thinks it is. Ihimaera did not ask for its honour; recipients of Arts Foundation laureates are chosen by an appointed panel and notified of their good fortune. A $50,000 embarrassment would be hard to refuse.

Those who put him in this position have questions to answer. The selection panel consisted of Elizabeth Ellis, Jenny Harper, Derek Lardelli and two writers, Bill Manhire and Grant Smithies. Did they read the book? Did they miss the stylistic oddities that alerted the Listener’s Jolisa Gracewood? Do they think her revelations unimportant?

And think of the message it sends to every aspiring author – is fine if you mix in the right circles.

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47 Responses to “An award for plagiarism”

  1. Exclamation Mark (85 comments) says:

    Grant Smithies? Isn’t he that tosser who reviews music for the Sunday Star Times?
    With people like that judging, it’s little wonder the awards are a farce.

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  2. Auberon (873 comments) says:

    The writer(s) of the Herald editorial seem not to have read the first letter to the editor in this week’s Listener, which reads:

    Witi Ihimaera has been at it again. Sadly, he has learnt nothing from the exposure of his plagiarism of some of my work in the Matriarch in 1986… In 1986 I was not so concerned with the plagiarism (for which he made a graceful apology) as by the fact he was awarded the country’s top prize for fiction for a novel that was little more than a pastiche of ill-digested documents…
    – MPK Sorrenson
    (PARNELL, AUCKLAND)

    So, to make matters worse, it’s already been proved that he has form as a plagiarist.

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  3. dad4justice (8,222 comments) says:

    The farcical Arts Foundation was a hairy fairy Helen Klark idea? I think so which will explain why a Maori writer is getting paid $50K taxpayers money for a fraudulent book. If my planed book had stolen work from other writers I can always say she’ll be right bro, as they were just “errors”. Move on nothing to see here Honky. By the way did you know that I wrote the line; the cost to the good citizens for their indifference, in public affairs, is to be ruled by evil men. Cool eh bro, can I have the money please said the white motherfucker as John Boy gave another forest to another tribe. FFS this country has lost the fucking plot. What a sick joke!

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  4. Captain Crab (351 comments) says:

    We reward people who cheat now?
    What a country.

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  5. Brian Harmer (687 comments) says:

    DPF: “And think of the message it sends to every aspiring author – plagiarism is fine if you mix in the right circles.”

    Worse still, in my view, is the damage it does to his role as an academic. All of us find ourselves with what Jolisa Gracewood described as that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach when we encounter actual plagiarism. If you have a clear conscience, you can then set the wayward on the path of righteousness :-) If you are a plagiarist yourself, where can you go from there.

    I imagine that there will be those who support Witi Ihimaera regardless, for the undoubted talent that he has. How, I wonder, will his students respond?

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  6. Exclamation Mark (85 comments) says:

    We reward people who cheat now?
    What a country.

    I’m afraid so. That woman who ran the marathon at the Beijing Olympics and was subsequently found to be a drugs cheat?
    She’s a sitter for a Halberg award. Or at least she would be if we had the Arts Foundation on the judging panel.

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  7. Swiftman the infidel (329 comments) says:

    It’s called corruption, folks.

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  8. chfr (126 comments) says:

    After the Nobel Peace prize this should be no surprise. A non prize from lefty academic types to a lefty academic type.

    As an aside maybe I should ask Bill Manhire to remark some of my varsity work as he seems to not worry about not attributing now. Funny how it was an issue for a lowly student but not an academic.

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  9. tvb (4,425 comments) says:

    I think the integrity of the committee making this award has been seriously compromised. I suspect changes will now be made. It seems they were more concerned to give a 50K cheque to Ihimaera to help him on his way after leaving Auckland University and being strapped for cash.

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  10. Inventory2 (10,342 comments) says:

    I guess Ihimaera could have been forgiven for one lapse in judgment. The Letter to the Editor from MPK Sorenson in Auberon’s post above changes the landscape more than somewhat. That there are allegations of Ihimaera being a serial plagarist raises questions as to the integrity of his life’s work.

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  11. Fletch (6,395 comments) says:

    They had a big story about this in the last issue of The Listener. On the cover it has a photo of him, and two of the verses in question (one his, the other where he plagiarized from) – you can see a thumbnail of the cover at my link.
    The pullquote on the cover has him saying “I am personally apologizing”

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  12. RRM (9,924 comments) says:

    How many lines of the book were copied without proper attribution, again?

    Artists, Maoris AND public funding to bash, all in one convenient location. This thread will go nuts…

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  13. RRM (9,924 comments) says:

    “Inevitably his earlier work will be examined for similar lapses. If none comes to light, and the integrity of his future writing is beyond reproach, this episode may be regarded as aberrant. But not yet. This is not the moment for him to be hailed as a leading exponent of his art.”

    Ihimaera’s work has been in the public domain for years. You’d think any plagiarism in his iconic works would have come to light by now…?

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  14. Manolo (13,783 comments) says:

    Another of Clark’s proteges found to be a common plagiarist. Trade learnt from their master, no doubt.

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  15. Razork (375 comments) says:

    “I’m afraid so. That woman who ran the marathon at the Beijing Olympics and was subsequently found to be a drugs cheat?
    She’s a sitter for a Halberg award. Or at least she would be if we had the Arts Foundation on the judging panel.”

    What absolute tripe!
    she finished 35th at Beijing and was caught one off at an event many months later. Since banned for 2 years and disowned by athletics NZ. No comparison whatsoever.

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  16. Jack5 (5,137 comments) says:

    Did Witi Ihimaera feel entitled to claim those words under the Tiriti?

    If not I think an apology to all other English users is in order — another candidate for apology of the day.

    Re RRM’s 10.22 post: NZ novels aren’t exactly widely read round the world, and film scripts of book adaptations vary from the original. Ihimaera’s work will only now come under real scrutiny.

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  17. Brian Smaller (4,023 comments) says:

    I read Pounamu Pounamu when I was at school in fifth form in the 70s. I have read it several times since as I have got older and my appreciation of literature changed. It is still pretty good in my opinion. Everything of Ihimaera’s I have read since has been , well, not that enthralling for me.

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  18. david (2,557 comments) says:

    Someone please remind me again just where does all this “magic money” that the AFNZ is merrily dishing out come from?

    How many other Foundations, peopled by hand-picked acolytes to megolomania are there out there awash with public funds and no accountability?

    If the numbers were to be addad up, I’d wager that we could make a fair dent in the borrowing requirements of Government.

    And another thing, we are warned not to borrow for consumption. Handing out these sorts of awards IMHO does little to encourage invention or creativity as they are neither applied for nor expected so the fact that they are post-event and seem to be cosily incestuous makes them a total crock.

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  19. Inventory2 (10,342 comments) says:

    RRM said (10.22am) “Ihimaera’s work has been in the public domain for years. You’d think any plagiarism in his iconic works would have come to light by now…?”

    Read Auberon’s 8.03am post. Serial offender?

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  20. Exclamation Mark (85 comments) says:

    What absolute tripe!
    she finished 35th at Beijing and was caught one off at an event many months later. Since banned for 2 years and disowned by athletics NZ. No comparison whatsoever.

    It was a joke you fucking dork. Did you seriously think anyone would nominate her for a halberg award?

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  21. KiwiGreg (3,255 comments) says:

    Forget the plagarism – why are we randomly handing out $50,000 cheques of taxpayers’ money to people for doing their job?

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  22. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    He’s a Liberal Maori icon how dare you insult his mana!
    You whitey’s have all the nerve, who are you to talk about honesty and integrity we signed the treaty of waitangi in good faith and what did you all do within a few years?
    Who caused Enron then?

    So what if he made a mistake it’s not as if he’s a professor or anything is it?
    It was only very small bits from five works.
    It wasn’t on purpose, he’s apologised.
    If he’d been a BA student sure, he’d have rightly been sacked or failed.
    But he’s one of the meritocracy, an icon, he’s paid his dues.

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  23. Sarkozygroupie (207 comments) says:

    He is untouchable for two reasons. Brown and gay. Different rules of behaviour apply to different groups of people. All put in place by the liberal intelligentsia.

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  24. Exclamation Mark (85 comments) says:

    Forget the plagarism – why are we randomly handing out $50,000 cheques of taxpayers’ money to people for doing their job?

    The arts foundation of new zealand is privately funded apparently, a quick look at their website says so anyway. A quick look at their website also yields a photo of conductor Holly Mathieson who I have to say is smokin’ hot. Seriously go and have a look!

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  25. Paul G. Buchanan (294 comments) says:

    I am trying to reconcile this with my case. I write a rude email and get summarily dismissed, then blacklisted in NZ academia so as to negate the subsequent finding of unjustified dismissal and formal reinstatement. He engages in intellectual property theft yet keeps a full professorship and now gets this award. Both decisions are made by the Dean of the Arts Faculty.

    There really does seem to a pattern of playing loose with the rules at play here.

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  26. 3-coil (1,220 comments) says:

    The double standards of the lefty-dominated NZ academic and arts communities really do beggar belief.

    Contrast the witch-hunt that hounded the Maxim Institute’s Bruce Logan and his daughter (at the Christchurch Press?) out of their jobs after plagiarism accusations…with the $50,000 backhander, sorry, award given to the University of Auckland’s “Distinguished Creative Fellow in Maori Literature” after Witi was pinged doing the same thing. Broadcaster Noelle McCarthy is also still considered fit to occupy her cushy little earner at leftist National Radio after being exposed as a plagiarist.

    There are two different standards of accountability applied to brown/gay/lefty NZers vs white/righties, and it undermines the credibility of all the utterances from the self-styled liberal elite that monopolise the academic and arts communities. They are always so keen to claim the moral high ground, but the bias and corruption that was the norm and which they have thrived under for the last 9 years is no longer acceptable. The University of Auckland’s reputation as a credible NZ tertiary institute has taken a serious hit – they evidently have far lower standards of accountability than the Maxim Institute.

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  27. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    Forget the plagarism – why are we randomly handing out $50,000 cheques of taxpayers’ money to people for doing their job?

    It IS privately funded. Look there’s even an ‘about': http://www.artsfoundation.org.nz/about01.html and a ‘people': http://www.artsfoundation.org.nz/about03.html on their ‘website’.

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  28. tvb (4,425 comments) says:

    I see he wants to buy back his book. But I assume the 50k award will be taken and banked and spent.

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  29. Jack5 (5,137 comments) says:

    Re RRM’s 10.22 post “Ihimaera’s work has been in the public domain for years.”

    I don’t think so. Copyright will be held by his publisher, which has pulped the whole print run of the work containing plagiarism. This will have cost it thousands, perhaps tens of thousands.

    Copyright lasts for a period after the author’s death. Some lawyer might tell us whether its 50 years or 75 years. The publisher in effect buys the right to publish the work in return for a royalty payment. If the work is out of copyright, it is then in the public domain and the publisher need not pay royalty.

    TVB says Ihimaera wants to “buy back the book”. That would entail paying for the cost of the pulped edition, including publisher’s legal and research fees. Never mind, plenty of arts and other handout money to cover this.

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  30. Jack5 (5,137 comments) says:

    I’ve just looked at the article TVB alludes to at 3.58 (link below)…

    Usually a withdrawn book would be pulped. If Imihaera is offering to buy it from the publisher it may be a cheaper option to avoid meeting other costs the publisher incurred in addition to editing and printing — promotional, and now legal and research etc.

    What a mess. It is astonishing that Ihimaera should receive an award in the wake of this scandal. Perhaps he can show a glimmer of decency by declining the prize and especially the money that goes with it.

    In the light of the Ihimaera plagiarism and the apparent applause it has drawn from our artistic leaders, what an injustice has been done to both Paul G. Buchanan (1.45 post) and the Logans (2.18 post). Shame on our lefty academia, and in the Logans’ case, on the MSM which hounded them.

    The link on Ihimaera’s buyback offer:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10610118

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  31. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    Paul G Buchannan
    Maybe you deserved the sack :-) in their eyes, if the email was to a Brown, GBLT or Female person?
    The comparison you give does seem strange, maybe there is a history there from before you came on the scene?

    Who would one complain to about a Dean or a professor if you’re not an alumina of that college?

    Like HoniH he has cheated and therefore cheated those who pay the money as there is an expectation of honesty and integrity.

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  32. Fletch (6,395 comments) says:

    Witi is not so witty.
    What a pity he has to borrow for his litty.

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  33. KiwiGreg (3,255 comments) says:

    I stand corrected. I withdraw and apologise, the Arts patrons of New Zealand can spend their money however they wish.

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  34. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    On ya. They’re still idiots, decision made months ago nonwithstanding.

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  35. Paul G. Buchanan (294 comments) says:

    Mike NZ:

    The University undoubtably felt the dismissal was justified because the email was sent to a foreign fees-paying Arab female postgraduate student, one of those who was admitted under the student visa scheme signed with the UAE that I mentioned with regard to the WMD issue. No matter that she was hopelessly unqualified and her excuse was never validated, or that I apologised to her and the Dean a month before the email was leaked to the press and I got fired. What matters is the gravy train of foreign fee-paying bums in seats, and given that there is strong evident that UAE authorities got involved in the dismissal, the University saw my continued presence as injurious to that revenue stream. That is also why I am blacklisted in NZ, because all of the university managers do not want to upset that particular cart and my very vocal opposition to it makes me persona non grata in the NZ academe.

    Witi, of course, did no such thing. He is not a boat-rocker when it comes to petty matters such as teaching quality and the like.

    As it turns out the student dropped out and now is apparently at Massey, while I am out of academia except for a part-time visitorship at an Asian university–not my cup of tea, to be honest.

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  36. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    witi cheated.
    simple.
    what is the penalty for a student who cheats?

    Brown gay whatever, He cheated.
    The Dean in not sanctioning him, condones his cheating and therefore takes part in his cheating.
    simple.
    What is the penalty for a student who condones cheating and does nothing about it?

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  37. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    PGB
    You were screwed.

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  38. Letterman (184 comments) says:

    Would anyone be remotely surprised if I told them that I have observed senior Academics lobby on behalf of cheating / lazy / regulation ignoring students, and lobby against other honest, hard working staff, just to get the student graduated?

    Would it concern anyone if I told them that I have observed senior Academics make up rules and regulations on the spot, so as not to incur an appeal by a student on a failed assignment? Told to find “1 more mark” in an already marked assignment so as to not fail the student?

    Anyone?

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  39. Paul G. Buchanan (294 comments) says:

    Letterman:

    I have shared your experiences. Heck, I have had my own marks retroactively raised without consultation by department managers after I handed them for final entry! My protests just became part of the dossier used to fire me–for being “uncollegial” and “difficult”.

    MikeNZ: Indeed.

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  40. Letterman (184 comments) says:

    Hi Paul: if this sort of thing is happening at the University of Auckland, which is apparently NZ’s most prestigeous, what hope for any other Faculty around the country? Are staff simply asked to collude with what post-modern constructivists would call “perception” but what you and I might simply refer to as cheating?

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  41. Paul G. Buchanan (294 comments) says:

    Letterman: I do not think it is so much about post-modernism as it is about money. Many sins will be forgiven if they have no negative monetary implications (real or imagined). But should they adversely impact the revenue stream, even if correct and egalitarian (say, flunking ill-prepared people of non-pakeha or foreign backgrounds who do not meet even minimal university standards when govt scholarships or foreign fees are at stake), then the career-killing reality of speaking truth to power will become immediately apparent. And that, in turn, is what keeps the rest of the academic staff in line with management directives (something that was glaringly obvious in my case). Under such conditions quality of instruction goes south and grade inflation goes north, something that, again, I have experienced directly, and to personally injurious effect.

    Bottom line: in some disciplines at some NZ universities the degrees are no longer worth the paper they are written on.

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  42. Letterman (184 comments) says:

    Hi Paul – now that you mention it, there does seem to be much focus on the bottom line – and yes, at the expense of truth. It seems that academic freedom is not free to all. I have spoken truth to power previously, putting myself on the line in the process. I did so in the knowledge that I cannot win the battle I bought myself, but that if I was to honour my own core values, then I could not stay silent. I’m not gone yet – but it is likely that I soon will be.

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  43. Sarkozygroupie (207 comments) says:

    Letterman and Paul G Buchanan:

    Good luck – if not in the short term I hope you prevail in the long term against such scurrilous behaviour masquerading as academic integrity. Certainly saw and questioned some dodgy dealings by lecturers myself in my university days.

    My question is, is there anyway to make the Dean explain why she has taken the position she has with a) both PBG and WH cases (why UAE as parties outside the employment relationship were able to interfere and influence the outcome of that relationship, and what is university policy for staff cheating?), and b) how she might now deal with any students who offer up Witi Ihimaera and the failure to punish his admission of guilt, as a precedent when they are caught for the same behaviour in future?

    Good to see CK Stead taking a firm stand against Witi Ihimaera’s behaviour today, and calling attention to UA’s egregious degrading of its pedagogical standards. The Dean is a transient member of staff in the sense she will at some stage find a new position at a different insititution or retire. The University of Auckland will however be left with a permanent scar that will leave the integrity of the institution itself and future students achievements open to question and doubt. Is the Dean prepared to wear this heavy burden or is her conscience clear?

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  44. Paul G. Buchanan (294 comments) says:

    SG: Just to clarify, the current Dean is not the one who fired me. That individual was promoted to VC Research a month after the Uni reached its settlement with me, which, given that the Uni spent +/1 500K (of taxpayer money) on my case, pretty sums up the attitude of academic managers at that institution. I do not see a change in approach forthcoming anytime soon, particularly since the current VC just had his contract renewed and salary increased (to over $500K/year).

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  45. Adam G (1 comment) says:

    On the matter of plagiarism – there needs to be a more accountability over it – where and whenever it occurs. I listened with interest while driving back from a meeting this morning to the conversation on the National programme which made some good points but what I thought was VERY FUNNY was it employs a presenter who was caught plagiarising seven times.

    And there was no mention of that.

    It is theft pure and simple and whether a writer or a host just is wrong and damaging for our national brand.

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  46. Wordweaver (1 comment) says:

    Anyone who has read Ihimaera’s The Matriarch and also seen the film Don’t Look Now, based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier, must have noted the huge similarity in one of the scenes – a gondola in Venice gliding through the mist with a coffin on board and the mourners, in black veils etc, standing silently at the back. At the time I read The Matriarch, some years ago, I thought it was a coincidence but now I’m not so sure.

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  47. Rita (1 comment) says:

    Sad, but true – plagiarism is plagiarism.
    Sad, but true – plagiarism rules apply to all levels of academia
    Sad, but true – Witi was/is a great lecturer and I have learned a lot from him over the years
    Sad, but true – I am happy to remain a mere groundling

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