Viewpoint: Rand Paul is in plagiarism denial

It’s easy to take the easy way out, but it’ll show when you do. A couple days ago, Tea Party Sen. Rand Paul was accused of multiple counts of plagiarism in several speeches. The accusation that brought it all to light was that he had copied and pasted, maybe altered a little bit, lines straight out of a Wikipedia article. When faced with the obvious evidence, his response was to deny he’d done anything wrong and “jokingly” threaten to duel his accusers. You know, as in duel. With guns. Like in the old days.

We’re sort of laughing in disbelief at this point, especially since our country just saw a rash of new shootings, one at an airport and one at a university. That joke is about as tasteless as dressing up as blackface Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman for Halloween, as is Paul’s stubborn refusal to admit he either is wrong or has no idea what plagiarism is. Seriously, at least pretend to be sorry, even if it’s only sorry he got caught.

Plagiarism is an unfortunately common issue in the education system (and obviously the political system, but we’ll get to that). It means taking information from another source to use for your own purposes and not giving credit to that source. Some of our teacher friends tell us it’s a guarantee that at least one of their students every term, either in grade school or at the university level, will submit a paper patchworked from copied-and-pasted material off the Internet. Sometimes, the students don’t even bother changing the font and format to match. And then, of course, there are some students clever enough to alter enough words here and there to make it sound just a little different. (We would assume Paul has done both, but, as we can’t see the actual printouts of his speeches, we can only imagine the colorful combination of Tahoma, Arial and Times New Roman in varying font sizes.)

Here at Weber State University, plagiarism can get you kicked out of your program and even out of school. Each department has its own rules concerning plagiarism and how instances are handled. Weber, like other universities across the country, takes the matter very seriously. It’s not only cheating, but a reflection of a lazy, dishonest individual. It is, to put it bluntly, stealing as much as walking out the store with your groceries without paying. Granted, some people tell us plagiarism happens most often now because students are just not being taught it’s bad, and with the Internet hanging out in almost every younger student’s pockets, copying and pasting from the Web is the most obvious choice.

You would think, though, that an old (relative term) guy like Paul who likes to think of himself as intelligent would have heard something about plagiarism during his time at the Duke University School of Medicine. Duke is quite the prestigious school, by the way, and Paul himself graduated to become an ophthalmologist (according to Wikipedia — thanks, Wikipedia). The allegations of his consistent plagiarism now makes us wonder how much of his degree was actually earned and not cheated.

Other politicians have been caught in the plagiarism game, and the ones we’re thinking of admitted they’d failed. But not Paul. To him, the accusations are just haters hating, haters rolling. It’s not his fault he lifted full passages off of sites like Wikipedia, didn’t even bother to change more than a few words and then somehow “credited” it to not even the right sources (if at all). How about not plagiarizing in the first place? We don’t see your footnotes, Paul. All you’re doing is leading by example that copying and pasting from Wikipedia is OK (note: it isn’t). Then there’s all this talk from him about proper footnotes and how much work it is, but, as a good person, he’ll do it anyway.

Yeah, that sounds like a solid counterargument. In fact, that sounds like an excuse. And by the way, fellow students — such excuses won’t fly in front of your dean if you get caught with a patchwork paper. So, the moral of the story is don’t plagiarize, and if you do and end up getting caught, we hope you have more dignity and humility than a certain U.S. senator.