Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Actually, he's out

As of December 2, the faculty page of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas offers this dignified notice: "Dr. Mustapha Marrouchi is no longer a member of the faculty at UNLV’s Department of English."  Plagiarizing from over 160 sources, in works ranging from his dissertation to recent articles, is, it seems, a bit too much. Was it the 134th theft that was the tipping point?  By that 150th stolen paragraph, the university decided that enough was enough? (Although 1 person voted not to fire him, fearing, apparently, a rush to judgment.)  But the Cabinet should not snark. Slow as it was, UNLV, unlike ASU, did in the end act.  This long saga was primarily a failure of a scholarly community, not of a bureaucracy.  Or is there not a difference?

The Cabinet does not wish to bring Dr. Marrouchi more pain, now that he has lost his livelihood. Dismissed, he moves from the realm of farce to that of sadness - not tragedy, because there is no hero, here. We shall leave him to travel on.  But we should not so quickly avert our eyes from the conditions that allowed him to flourish.  The Marrouchi episode deserves more forensic analysis than that of, say, Senator John Walsh, who plagiarized a masters essay and never had an academic career.  Or that of Vanessa L. Ryan, who patch-wrote in a book that was quickly recalled by its publisher, and who immediately faced profound professional consequences.  Dr. Marrouchi, by contrast, thrived for decades in academia.   In a profession built on rigorous peer review, he showed his peers for what we are: functionaries devoted to protecting the system that protects us.  We write inward-turned publications, careless of readers, and submit soft referee reports and reviews, careless of standards.  So many of us benefit from such things (far easier to manage than students) that an unsympathetic observer might suspect Professor Marrouchi was exiled less because he violated academic standards, than because his continued employment threatened to make clear those standards don't really exist.  Now that he's gone, we could try to figure out why and how journals, tenure committees, and publishing houses promoted his work.  Or we could breathe a sigh of relief that Marrouchi is gone, but the Marrouchisphere --  the academic bubble in which we can continuously plant and consume and excrete each other's words, sealed off from a world that might truly judge or need us -- survives unscathed.   

No, the Cabinet doesn't quite believe what we just wrote.  But we're afraid, very soon, we will.

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