National Sun Yat-sen University president Cheng Ying-yao (鄭英耀) yesterday wrote in an open letter to faculty, students and alumni that as long as the university corrects its faults, it would continue to hold the public’s trust.
Cheng sent the letter after Kaohsiung City Councilor Jane Lee (李眉蓁), the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) mayoral by-election candidate, was accused of almost entirely plagiarizing her master’s thesis at the university.
Following the allegations, Lee on Thursday announced that she would give up her degree, but the Kaohsiung-based university said that the Degree Conferral Act (學位授予法) had no regulations concerning the voluntary relinquishment of a degree.
Photo: Chang Chung-yi, Taipei Times
“I understand that everyone must feel that this incident is infuriating and unjust. It is infuriating to see that there are people who do not cherish their accomplishments, and it is unjust because the majority of university graduates complete their theses diligently and follow the rules, but now they have become a group that is misunderstood and mocked by society,” Cheng wrote in the letter.
Although the incident has tainted the university’s reputation, as long as it demonstrates a responsible attitude and corrects its faults, it would be able to win public recognition again, given the university’s performance record, he wrote.
Cheng wrote that although the public and the media have certain expectations for the investigation into the alleged plagiarism, such as its timeline, the university’s investigative committee would stick to the principles of upholding academic autonomy and maintaining independence.
The university initiated an investigation immediately after reports about Lee’s thesis surfaced on Monday last week, and on Friday held its first meeting to review her thesis, he said.
A meeting of faculty members is to be held after the review process is over to determine whether Lee’s thesis adviser should be punished for dereliction of duty, he added.
In light of increasing allegations of plagiarism, the university on April 29 decided to remove the option of “never publish it” for students when they submit the digital version of their thesis, in the hope that every graduate thesis from the university can stand the test of public scrutiny, the university wrote on Facebook yesterday.
The university said it would devise regulations for the ratio of thesis advisers to students, while striving to balance teaching quality, academic autonomy and flexibility.
While the efficiency of the system that detects plagiarism by comparing a thesis with others has greatly improved, the university would also amend its regulations on plagiarism-related reviews to expedite such probes, it said.
The university apologized for the uproar surrounding Lee’s alleged plagiarism, saying that it would show “no leniency” in plagiarism cases to uphold the university’s integrity.
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