Professor lost Job twice after accusation of Plagiarism

Professor Abebe Zegeye

A senior African academic has lost his job for the second time after an Australian university that appointed him in January belatedly discovered he had been forced to quit his South African post the previous November following charges of serial plagiarism.

The case raises questions about the secrecy surrounding disgraced academics who are found guilty of academic misconduct and why other universities planning to hire them are not informed.

Professor Abebe Zegeye  was forced to resign as Director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of the Witswatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg last November when an investigation found he was involved in 140 instances of plagiarism, although the first accusations against him had been made in August 2009.

Professor Abebe Zegeye
Professor Abebe Zegeye

Why it had taken more than a year for the claims to be investigated and confirmed is unclear.
Zegeye then applied for and was appointed Director of the University of South Australia’s Hawke Research Institute despite the university claiming this followed “an extensive competitive international search”. That search did not reveal the reason he left Wits because the university never disclosed the circumstances surrounding his departure.
The Hawke Research Institute was established in 1997 and named after former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke. It conducts public policy research, employs 60 staff and has an annual research budget of more than US$2 million. Hawke is a member of the institute’s advisory board along with several prominent academic and public figures.
The university said it only became aware of Zegeye’s “attribution problems” after a report by South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper on 15 April accused Wits University of trying to cover up the affair.

“Zegeye has subsequently resigned from his position at the University of South Australia. Professor Zegeye does not wish to comment,” a university spokesman told The Age newspaper in Melbourne on Thursday. The Age broke the story in the Australian media.

Mail & Guardian education editor David MacFarlane revealed that Wits University’s most senior executives appeared to have colluded “in hushing up one of academe’s deadliest sins: plagiarism.

“They convicted and dismissed the high-flying professorial sinner last year but have never announced it,” MacFarlane wrote. “That is until after the Mail & Guardian told Wits management it had a copy of the confidential, 100-page arbitration in the plagiarism case it brought against Zegeye.

“Vice-chancellor Loyiso Nongxa said the university had exerted ‘the rigour and integrity appropriate for a matter of this seriousness’. But his detailed answer confirmed that the university had made no announcement about the plagiarism charges and its resultant dismissal of Zegeye.”

Read More on University world News

More report on the story on Mail&Guardian.com

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10 Comments

  1. What is his side of the story? There is always HIS, HER’s and The Truth. If he did it, it is sad. If he didn’t, he should speak up and defend himself or may be sue for libel . Either way it doesn’t look good.

  2. What is his side of the story? There is always HIS, HER’s and The Truth. If he did it, it is sad. If he didn’t, he should speak up and defend himself or may be sue for libel . Either way it doesn’t look good.

  3. There is not a lot from the professor side but he had a talk with Mail&Guardian about the charge in South Africa. He denied at one point and admitted in a document from his lawyer. I updated the link in the article. Thanks Addis for mentioning.

  4. Thanks Ocean. It was a few weeks ago. I went to one of Ethiopian news sites, I believe it is Nazreth.com(?) There was a political commentary regarding Egypt and other recent ME revolutions. It was submitted by a fellow Ethiopian [deducing from his name]. Something in the article strike me odd. I looked for reference or credits in the article and nothing turned up except his name..something Ferenju or sort was his name. I looked further and nothing. I copied the first paragraph and asked Google. Lo and be hold the entire paragraph was published months ago. This was way before the revolution. Then I thought may be our fellow brother just copied one paragraph and forgot to mention it. So I checked the next four paragraphs. You guessed it, it was there in all its glory…to the last punctuation. He added his take at the remaining paragraphs. I sent them a comment to correct it and within a few hours they took down the article, stripped the parts that were copied and republish the remaining. I sent them the original link and the name of the author with a suggestion that they need to vet their contributors or else they could get sued for copyright etc.. Copyright is a very rampant disease especially in Asia. I am surprised to see it in our scholars, if this is true. The west has its share too, Tony Blair being one.

  5. That is one good example Addis, actually this goes to the news articles too. Most of the Ethiopian related (I am not that familiar with other countries) News websites and News aggregate including ethiopiaforums copy and republish news articles some times without a link back to the news source intentionally and unintentionally that is also falls to the copyright infringements if the news states that it is copyright protected. (I am guilty as charged in some of them 🙂 ) I think knowing how much is fair use it is much better even thou not really defined in detail how much to use as a fair use or how.

  6. haha well I think you are doing just fine so far. The rules are still a work in progress but everyone is now somewhat agreed that news articles can’t be copied and pasted as it is being done in some Ethio news community, especially the ones who just learned posting stuff online or new to word-press Joomla etc. Basically it is the wild west and I think there isn’t much scrutiny because it is Ethiopian news…just as the music files of Ethiopian artists – shared online pretty much freely…even YouTube doesn’t detect it. Five years ago the conservative now a burning liberal woman, Ms Huffington started her wordpress thingy and she did make a fortune….now sold her blog to AOL for a good $300+ mil. She can retire handsomely but some bloggers are suing her because she did it on their back etc.. Now in her blog most of the news is a snippet with the original link unless it is done by her bloggers themselves. Same thing with Drudge and others. The rule now seems to just copy a portion and put a link. THere is one exception that you can do an almost entire shibang of the article, i.e if you do a commentary about it then it is ok to post everything but with separate paragraph and analysis etc… Lots of people made money on it but now it is sort of maturing plus ad money seems equally shared b/n the original and the linker. I don’t know how the Ethiopian news sites shake out down the road but for now it looks a free frenzy.

  7. How on earth could he get that far without being discovered? It seems that you havenot told us OR been able able to get the whole story. On the other hand, such things have been reported invarious places recently: a Chinese professor (technology), a German (chemistry), etc.

  8. One has to ask how serious a search was done at his new institution and who supported his application. A quick look online makes that fairly obvious.

  9. It may sometimes be possible to find certain similarities between the works of different individuals even though each of them did not have access to the others work. There might be a number of reasons for that, “uncosciously” perhaps. However, the question to ask, if possible the alleged person himself, should be whether the work was copied, i.e., how much of what is reported in the media is true, and how his name was associated with such things? I don’t think that man of his position should wait someone’s decision before he comes out and defends himself. He should be able toto clear his name

  10. Zegeye’s plagiarism is pretty mild compared to what happened during the 2003 SABS Design Awards – where the top prize (The chairman’s Award) was awarded to entrants that had cribbed their entire design (right down to even copying the original designer’s product name), and then claimed that this was their own original invention and creation. The real scandal is still ongoing because the SABS, which is now well aware of the true background, refuses to pull the award because of their close relationship with one of the designers.

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