Copy paste: Plagiarism charges flare up politics in Sindh University

HEC has recently blacklisted 20 professors of seven varsities across Pakistan on charges of plagiarism


Z Ali March 20, 2015
HEC has recently blacklisted 20 professors of seven varsities across Pakistan on charges of plagiarism. STOCK IMAGE

HYDERABAD: Two recent developments in the Sindh University (SU) have pitted a group of teachers against the varsity’s administration as well as the Higher Education Commission (HEC). Days before the teachers’ panel led by Dr Azhar Ali Shah, the vice-president of the Federation of All-Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association, lost the syndicate elections on March 11, the HEC blacklisted him and five other SU teachers under charges of plagiarism.

Dr Azhar and the Sindh University Teachers’ Association complained that the HEC charges were levelled against him in connivance with the acting vice-chancellor (VC) of SU, Dr Parveen Shah, as she wanted to affect his position in the elections. Shah’s complaints echo those of former acting VC and incumbent pro-VC of the varsity’s Mirpurkhas campus, Dr Imdad Ismaili, who maintains that the HEC  decision and the election loss were schematic occurrences. However, the SU administration and Shah’s adversary in the SU turf war, Dr Arfana Mallah, considers his reaction frivolous.

Plagiarism

Azhar and Dr Ismaili are among the 20 faculty members of seven universities in Pakistan who have been blacklisted with a two-year ban on the HEC-given benefits. These include approval for research supervisor, travel, research and development grants, prestigious awards and membership of different academic committees.

“Self-plagiarism has been established in this case as the same paper was republished without major changes,” reads the letter, dated March 2, 2015, which was served to Azhar, Ismaili and Laxman Das Dhomeja, the latter being the director of SU’s Institute of Information and Communication Technology. The letter deems it an unethical practice that authors’ names were changed in the journal papers that were republished.

The three professors, besides as many teachers from a British university, G Folino, Natalio Krasnogor and Daniel Barthel, co-authored two research papers with Shah. The papers were initially read in conferences in 2007 and 2008. According to the HEC, Azhar and his co-authors reproduced the same in the SU Research Journal in 2011 without ‘major changes’ — an act that amounts to self-plagiarism.

The other three SU teachers charged by the HEC for copying material from books and sources in their researches are Dr Abdul Sattar Almani, Muhammad Aslam Kamboh and Muhammad Aslam Chaudhry. For his part, Azhar asserted that he made the required changes before publishing the two researches in the SU journal.

“Dr Parveen, who is also the VC of Khairpur’s Shah Abdul Latif University (SALU), and former SALU professor Ghulam Raza Bhatti, a member of the plagiarism standing committee, used their influence in my case,” he claimed, while talking to The Express Tribune.

Dr Parveen, who has completed her month-long acting charge, says she has no ‘interest’ in the SU to engage in any form of manipulation. “In fact, I ensured the HEC letter [against Azhar] was not leaked before the syndicate elections because it would have influenced the results,” she told The Express Tribune.

Additional charges

An SU press release issued on Saturday stated that Dr Ismaili has also given verbal threats. A varsity official disclosed that Azhar, Ismaili and Dhomeja are likely to be stripped of their charges of the quality enhancement cell director, Mirpurkhas campus pro-VC and IICT director, respectively. “If the HEC dismissed their appeals, which have to be decided within a month, their additional charges will be taken back,” the source said.

Syndicate elections

Azhar and his panel claimed that the administration connived with Dr Mallah to help her win. “The administration first threatened the teachers with consequences if they voted for my group and on the day of polling, they put serial numbers on the ballot papers which denied secrecy to the voters.”

Dr Parveen said, however, that Azhar made this accusation when the vote count was under progress and he began to anticipate defeat. “They brought this issue to the registrar’s knowledge during the early hours of voting and then they blanked out the serial numbers. After that voting, concluded without any complaints from any side.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2015.

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