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Peng's NCU candidacy in doubt

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY The education ministry is waiting for a report from National Chunghsing University before it decides whether or not to appoint Peng Tso-kwei, who is facing plagiarism charges, as the new president of the school

By Lin Mei-chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Education will not issue a formal letter of employment to the candidate in line to head National Chunghsing University before Sept. 30, the deadline for the university's authorities to submit an investigative report into plagiarism charges levelled at the candidate, a lawmaker said yesterday.

"It is certain that the Ministry of Education will put off issuing the official letter of appointment to Peng Tso-kwei (彭作奎) because it is clearly aware of the gravity of the matter," DPP lawmaker Wang Li-ping (王麗萍) told the Taipei Times yesterday.

"At the moment [the ministry] is under mounting pressure both from professors of the school and a protest letter from the publishing house in the US. Ministry officials must proceed with caution if they are to prevent any further clamor."

The uproar surrounding the presidential candidate for the university continues to simmer while the case is in the hands of school authorities, who are investigating two academic works written by Peng which have been brought into question.

Peng is an agricultural economics professor who had been expected become the school's next president.

Peng is alleged to have passed off the work of American scholars as his own on at least two occasions.

In accordance with ministry regulations, the school must first address allegations of plagiarism involving its staff before the ministry may step in.

Questioned by the Taipei Times about the current status of the investigation, school authorities declined to give a clear answer.

Wu Ming-ming (吳明敏), president of the university's professors' association, told the Taipei Times that as far as he understood, no thorough investigation of the disputed works would be carried out by the school.

"They will simply request the accused to answer questions orally, before sending a report to the ministry for a decision," Wu said.

The controversy centers on Peng's academic integrity and his alleged violation of copyright law. School professors argue that a plagiarist and law-breaker is ill suited to serve as president of the university.

Cornell University Press, the publisher of the 1985 book Agricultural Product Prices, one of the works in question, issued a strongly-worded protest letter on Sept. 13 against Peng's actions and accused him of borrowing liberally from the book written by two Cornell professors, William Tomek and Kenneth Robinson.

Bruce Gardner, a professor at the University of Maryland, also wrote to convey his discontent with Peng.

Four of the models appearing in Peng's journal The Impact of Trade Liberalization on Agricultural Productions and Farmers' Share in Taiwan, which won an award from the National Science Council in 1990, are alleged to have been copied from Gardner's 1975 book The Farm-Retail Price Spread in a Competitive Food Industry.

Gardner said Peng's use of his model was not the cause of the problem in itself. What triggered his discontent is that "Peng did not cite my article at any point in his paper, nor is my article included in the list of references at the end of his article," he wrote in his letter.

Wang Li-ping told the Taipei Times that as the current president's term ends on Sept. 30, lawmakers have given the education ministry two options. They say that either the term of the present president should be extended until the end of this year to allow more time for the ministry to sort out the dispute, or the ministry should assign an acting president to serve until the controversy is resolved.

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