CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The Bellwether has already discovered Republican U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt appears to have filched much of the material for her Sept. 4 newsletter topic from an Ohio Highway Patrol superintendent's column written in 2005. Her claim of authorship raises an interesting question about ethics and conduct. Should a congresswoman receive a pass for the lack of integrity that would get an Ohio college kid punished, or flunked, or maybe even kicked out of school? Or should the House Ethics Committee move to take action that could result in censure or worse?
On campuses and schools -- after all, her column was about school buses -- plagiarism is taken seriously. Schmidt is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, whose Code of Academic Integrity makes clear that plagiarism is a breach of conduct and an offense. The school's code defines plagiarism as:
"Submitting another's published or unpublished work, in whole, in part or in paraphrase, as one's own without fully and properly crediting the author with footnotes, citations or bibliographical references."
It also rules out using ghostwriters and says it is wrong to pass off another persons work as original. Several other Ohio colleges and universities have similar rules designed to stop plagiarism. Ohio University has been investigating engineering students and faculty members over alleged copycat theses which led to advanced degrees. Plagiarism is under attack in academia.
Schmidt's copycat work was posted on an official House Website, and should be a target of a House Ethics Committee examination. The official Code of Conduct for the House does not mention plagiarism. But it does demand that members behave well as members of that body. Indeed, Rule 1 states as follows:
"A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House shall conduct himself at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House."
The complete text of the rules are here.
Bottom line: Schmidt's plagiarism would be considered a breach of academic integrity on college campuses in Ohio. A student would face sanctions. It is time for the House to weigh in on plagiarism. The Ethics Committee needs to open an investigation.