After editors of The Cavalier Daily, discovered blatant plagiarism by a staff reporter last month, they reported the offense to their readers, reported it to the university’s student-run Honor Committee and removed the compromised articles from the paper’s website.
Only to find five editors facing formal charges of breaching the University’s Code of Conduct two days later, a charge punishable by expulsion, according to an Oct. 19 Washington Post article.
According to Student Press Law Center (SPLC) and the Washington Post, Anna Marie McKenzie, student and Honor Committee Chair, filed charges against the five student editors through the University of Virginia’s Judiciary Committee. Four of the five charges were dropped, until only Jason Ally, editor in chief, remained on the chopping block, according to the Washington Post.
McKenzie alleged the newspaper’s editorial board breached the confidentiality of the reporter’s Honor Committee investigation and the University’s Code of Conduct by publishing the Sept. 12 editorial that announced the plagiarism to Cavalier Daily readers, according to SPLC. (Find The Cavalier Daily editorial here).
The Cavalier Daily editors concealed the identity of the reporter and their work. “The reason: They had reported him to the Honor Committee, a panel that goes to great lengths to protect the identities of alleged offenders,” according to the Washington Post.
“We took every possible step to conceal the identity of the author,” Ally said. “The initial editorial we ran disclosing the plagiarism incident did not include the writer’s name, the writer’s gender, what section the writer worked for or even the titles of the published stories.”
The editors full-filled the newspaper’s responsibility to the community they served by reporting the offense. The Cavalier Daily’s editorial board straddled the regulations and ethics of the journalism world and the University’s Code of Conduct admirably with grace and aplomb.
Yet, the editors were thrown under scrutiny and judgement with trumped-up charges. One wonders what McKenzie’s thoughts were as she filed charges against her fellow students. Petty angst? Blinded by power? Or, did she really believe the Sept. 12 editorial violated the confidential identity and impartiality of judgement concerning the word-thief?
On Oct. 18, over a month since the incident occurred, Ally was cleared by the University Judiciary Committee of violating the university’s Code of Conduct by publishing the damning editorial.
What do you think we should take away from this? Was this a case of power hungry bureaucracy run rampart? Or, democracy in a real world application?