Ivan’s private site

March 31, 2012

Political decency (or the lack of it)

Filed under: Hungary,Private — Ivan Herman @ 12:05
Tags: , ,

Here is the story. A high profile politician in a democratic country has a PhD. This also means that he also proudly displays the “Dr” as part of his official name; indeed we are talking about a country where it is the tradition to use that title, and this usually highly respected by society at large.

However, a problem occurs. The rumor is that the PhD has been tainted by plagiarism, i.e., that a substantial part of the PhD thesis is not original work, but had been copied verbatim (though possibly translated if the original was in another language) from other scholarly works. In academic circles this is not considered acceptable; the high standards of academic publishing, let that be a thesis or an average publication, requires the published work to be original. To be blunt: the politician in question is accused of having cheated by transgressing those standards.

Because this is a high profile person, this issue is taken seriously, further investigation follows and it turns out that the rumors are indeed well funded. As a result, the University, that has originally issued the PhD, strips our politician from his title.

How does that affect our politician? Well, you think you have heard this story if you follow the news: indeed you may thing of the (former) defense minister of Germany, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, whose PhD title has been annulled by the University of Bayreuth. Mr. zu Guttenberg (and not Dr. zu Guttenberg any more) has done the only thing a politician of his stature should do: he resigned. A decent choice in a decent, democratic country.

However… not all politicians are equally decent. The very same story happened with the current president, no less, of Hungary, Mr. (and not Dr!) Pál Schmitt. Rumors on plagiarism, public inquiry… and the Semmelweis University of Budapest annulled his PhD because the rumors were indeed well funded.  Does he resign? No. He sees no reason to quit. Indecent choice in a, hopefully, still decent and democratic country, but with an increasingly indecent political leadership.

A shame.

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4 Comments

  1. Do not despair, it took months to “convince” Mr Guttenberg to resign. Eventually, public pressure mounted up too much for him to stay in office. The same may still happen for Mr Schmitt. I do hope that plagiarism does not turn out to be tied to a German-sounding name, though. ;-)

    Comment by Thomas Tikwinski — March 31, 2012 @ 12:33

    • Hey Thomas,

      it may have taken months, but he did it. Based on what I heard and saw, I have my doubts that this would happen in Hungary, though. But I hope you are right…

      Comment by Ivan Herman — March 31, 2012 @ 13:00

  2. See? ;-)

    I hope Hungary will find a decent successor!

    Comment by Thomas Tikwinski — April 2, 2012 @ 19:55

    • Yep, you were right on one fact indeed. Great. That being said, the way he decided to resign (via a speech in the parliament, no less!), and the way the ruling party around him reacted, was far from “decent”. Essentially: I was right, I did not do anything wrong, people who revealed this issue are at fault, we are the victims of the liberal left, etc, etc. Sigh…

      Comment by Ivan Herman — April 3, 2012 @ 9:04


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