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.
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.
“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.”
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More report on the story on Mail&Guardian.com