Monday, April 14, 2014

Schavan court decision published

The German court in Düsseldorf that heard former German education minister Annette Schavan's arguments against the University of Düsseldorf rescinding her doctorate has published the written form of the judgement, just a few days after Schavan announced in a personal note that she will not be pursuing the case in the upper courts. Schavan's note makes it clear that she still does not understand what the problem really is about. She speaks of academic ethics and bemoans that so many upstanding academics had advised her that she was doing things right. They were all wrong.

Schavan's lawyers had loaded their guns with pretty much every halfwitted idea they could cobble together that was supposed to show that the university was wrong. The judge writing the judgement neatly and clearly knocks down every one, choosing examples from Schavan's own dissertation to illustrate point after point. The judgement is so thorough in its analysis, that it should convince anyone considering taking a university to court for rescinding a doctorate of the hopelessness of that undertaking. There are quite a number of nuggets in the decision that should force many other universities to have a hard look at their current practice of accepting problematic doctorates (¶129):
Dass einzelne Autoren (zum Beispiel Stadter und Fend) sich durch das Nichtzitieren ihrer Werke in der Dissertation der Klägerin nicht nachteilig betroffen fühlen, ist für die hier allein entscheidende Frage, nämlich ob die Klägerin getäuscht hat, offensichtlich ebenfalls irrelevant. (It is obviously irrelevant for the question at hand, which is whether the petitioner has deceived [the faculty], that some authors (for example Stadter and Fend) do not feel themselves to be detrimentally affected by their works not being quoted in the dissertation of the petitioner. 
Exactly. It has nothing to do with the feelings of this or that person, but whether any reader of the work could be unclear as to whether it is the author or some third person speaking at some point. This needs to be understood in universities such as Cottbus and Heidelberg, although the latter case also involves members of a working group "sharing" text.

The judge closes with the clear statement (¶238):
Lediglich vorsorglich ist anzumerken, dass auch im Übrigen keine Anhaltspunkte für mildere Maßnahmen ersichtlich sind. (As a precautionary measure it is observed that there is no evident basis for milder measures.)
The blog Causa Schavan has pointed discussion of the judgement, including making clear who the persons are who are alluded to "anonymously" in the text. The blog Schavanplag, which originally published the plagiarism documentation publicly under Schavan's name, also includes a discussion of the financial and legal problems the government will have if they try and put Schavan in place as the Ambassador to the Holy See.

I still have not found a comment from one of the Allianz organizations that came out so loudly, denouncing the University of Düsseldorf and defending Schavan. One would expect them as academics to state: Okay, we understand now, we were wrong. If a reader does find such a statement, please post it in the comments section here!

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