Plagiarism is unforgivable

After he was caught plagiarizing, it’s difficult for me to see Chris Spence as anything but a lazy, arrogant thief who plagiarized several articles and literary works to appear more intelligent than those around him.

With that in mind, there is no way he should be able to keep his PhD from the University of Toronto (U of T).

On Jan. 11, Spence officially announced his resignation as director of education of the Toronto District School Board and apologized for the obvious lapse of judgment.

Spence concluded his shockingly original speech by claiming that his intention is to now register in a course at Ryerson University for ethics and journalism to make amends for his blatant act of plagiarism.

If Spence wanted to truly make amends for his contradicting ethics towards the educational system, he should have his unashamedly unoriginal doctoral dissertation, deemed invalid by his alma mater, U of T.

Though discussions are still underway in regards to the status of Spence’s PhD, why should this man be allowed to hold this honour when he only did half of the work?

What about those who work hard on their thesis and do not get the same kind of recognition?

How could he have gotten away with it for so long as well? His use of plagiarism wasn’t just the odd sentence taken and then re-worded, but instead it was paragraphs of unaltered content.

The average university student knows to re-word and go to great lengths to make sure that they aren’t caught plagiarizing.

Why didn’t Spence go to those lengths? Was it because of sheer laziness? Or did his ego tell him that he wouldn’t be caught because of his position? Either way, Spence clearly thought that he was above everyone else.

Spence admitted to giving failed marks to former students of his that were caught plagiarizing while he had clearly not practiced what he had preached.

Does a man of these contradictions sound like he is deserving of the PhD from a prestigious university on his wall?

The answer is an overwhelming no. He is not deserving of his PhD and U of T should recognize this and by taking immediate and drastic action.

One of Spence’s plagiarized articles was written about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. In this article that was published in the Toronto Star, Spence stole a passage word-for-word from Aisha Sultan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who wrote about an encounter she had with her son about the shootings three days before, Spence claiming it as himself about his own son.

This example of intentional plagiarism only heightens the insensitivity regarding the shooting. Spence’s “sincerity” about the issue was not pure.

He had to go as far as to steal another parent’s ability to genuinely feel for the loss of a child and the devastation of a loss of a safe environment.

Is this tactless nature the representation that U of T wants to stand for them? Someone who cannot search within his heart to find the words that parents all over the world felt?

If this is a man that U of T wishes to glorify, then the university and its own ethics and morals should be brought into question as well.

By withdrawing Spence’s PhD, this will demonstrate that no one is exempt from the need to have integrity when it comes to what we say.

Regardless of one’s position, they should not be entitled to rob from others and expect to not endure any consequences.

For that reason, Spence simply should no longer hold the privilege of a PhD. He can still correct the wrong that he knowingly committed by giving back what was never rightfully his.
letters@thecord.ca

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