A former Wits professor was dismissed because of plagiarism in nine of his publications according to recent reports.
Professor Abebe Zegeye was the director of the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (Wiser) for about two months but was dismissed after Wits was informed of his plagiarism.
Asked about the Zegeye case, deputy vice-chancellor: advancement Professor Rob Moore said on Monday there are three measures in place when academics are employed.
The first measure is testimonials from reliable individuals which the academic provides. The university then contacts those individuals and thirdly they assess the publications of the academic.
“The assumption is that these testimonials are not the applicant’s brother,” said Moore.
The applicant provides a list of their publications and a written assessment and analysis are done by the university. Moore added that there are rigorous examinations into the publications.
“Whether it’s foolproof, that is the question,” he said.
Elaine Milton, the director of employee relations, also attended the meeting.
“There have only been three cases of plagiarism in seven years,” Milton said.
When asked why the dismissal of Zegeye was kept quiet, Milton said the process of dismissal is confidential and not published to protect the reputation of the academic.
“The report [Zegeye’s dismissal] had a limited circulation,” said Moore.
Milton added that only seven or eight people saw the report and that it must have been leaked by one of the people, but that it definitely didn’t leak from the university.
Milton said the only time the university would make the reason for dismissal known is if someone asks for a reference. If further enquiries were to be made they would always be truthful about dismissals.
Moore said Wits was the only institution Zegeye worked at that investigated and prosecuted him for plagiarising.
Zegeye went to work at the University of South Australia as the director of the Hawke Research Institute after his dismissal. He resigned after the Mail & Guardian article on April 15 which exposed his plagiarism.
Moore said the university’s stance on plagiarism doesn’t change and they are “strongly against it”.
Alex Rilgour and Panashe Paradza, 1st year BA law students, said their opinion on the matter was that it was “ridiculous”.
“Especially since we are nailed so hard for it,” said Rilgour.
Paradza added, “There is no need for a double standard.”
They didn’t know about the link to the Wits plagiarism document but said it gets drilled into them, which is a good step towards eliminating it.