Friday, January 7, 2005

Theology Professor Plagiarized Passages in His Book on Ethics, Professional Group Finds


A Boston College professor who recently published a book on psychoanalysis and ethics plagiarized passages from a book on the same subject, according to the Boston Psychoanalytic Society, which conducted a yearlong investigation into the matter.

The investigation concluded in November, but the professional society's decision was disclosed only on Thursday, in an article published by The Boston Globe.

The group found that The Ethical Dimension of Psychoanalysis: A Dialogue (State University of New York Press, 2003), by the Rev. William W. Meissner, a professor of theology at Boston College, "contained some passages that excessively paraphrased or borrowed ideas" from Psychoanalysis and Ethics (Yale University Press, 1991), by Ernest Wallwork, a professor of ethics at Syracuse University.

When Mr. Wallwork discovered the similarities, he notified SUNY Press. After an investigation, the press concluded that Mr. Wallwork's charges were without merit, according to James Peltz, the press's interim director. "We decided that any errors in attribution were inadvertent and minor," Mr. Peltz said. "We didn't feel that there was a situation that warranted further action on our part."

As for the psychoanalytic society's recent finding, Mr. Peltz said he was waiting to receive a copy of the decision. He said that when it is received, the press will examine the charges again.

Through a Boston College spokesman, Father Meissner declined to comment on the society's finding. "What I can tell you is that he adamantly maintains that he did not engage in plagiarism and that his book gives ample and appropriate credit" to Mr. Wallwork, said Jack Dunn, the spokesman. Mr. Dunn said the college is conducting its own investigation.

A representative of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society was unavailable for comment on Thursday. The society, which offers training to mental-health professionals, began an investigation after Mr. Wallwork submitted a complaint. In a letter to Mr. Wallwork, the society said that an eight-member panel had reviewed the case and found that Father Meissner had committed "a serious breach of professional and scholarly standards."

Mr. Wallwork is asking SUNY Press to withdraw Father Meissner's book until corrections are made.

In December The Chronicle published a special report on plagiarism by professors. It found that "academe often discourages victims from seeking justice, and when they do, tends to ignore their complaints."

Copyright © 2005 by The Chronicle of Higher Education

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