Disclosure of PKU plagiarism exaggerates problem in all higher education

To the Editor:

After I completed the quiz about plagiarism during course enrollment at Peking University, I was shocked to read the News’ coverage of plagiarism (At Peking University, allegations of plagiarism fly,” 1/14).

As a Division of Special Registration (DSR) graduate student from PKU, I was greatly impressed by Yale’s efforts to regulate research and promote academic freedom.

When I read the article cited above, I felt very grateful for professor [Stephen] Stearn’s advice for students at PKU. At the same time, I think it necessary to give a clearer view about this issue. As far as I know, the problem of plagiarism is treated seriously at PKU. Instances involving both academic faculty and students would result in a hearing or be dismissed if found committing plagiarism (according to my knowledge, two professors have been dismissed for plagiarism in recent years).

As a student originally studying in the English department of PKU, I remember that one of the required course for first-year graduate students was called “Bibliography and Research?”, in which we learned rules and standards for academic research; we were required to follow the MLA/APA style for citations in each paper submitted.

We also have a professor who is famous for strictly tracing students’ work back to the original sources, acknowledged or not.

Once, in a seminar about Victorian novels, the Professor became both angry and worried as she found some first-year students plagiarizing in their midterm paper. She privately interviewed the individuals suspected, and tried to make them aware of the seriousness of academic research. She is only one among many professors at PKU who treat academia with such severity.

There is also a special executive committee consisting of members from within and outside the university for the evaluation of dissertations. Its procedure include anonymous evaluations with the aim of making judgments fair. Among my classmates, I know no one who uses uncertain sources or cites without acknowledgment.

Outside the English department, there is a highly recommended course “Rules and Standards for Academic Research.” Though it is given by a prestigious professor of the Chinese department, the course’s subject matter is intended for the whole university.

I write this response to not to debate, but to clarify, that plagiarism exists in PKU (as in every research university). It should not be exaggerated. Plagiarism is by no means “part of a larger pattern,” as evolutionary biology professor Stephen Stearns ’67 said.

China, at least PKU, is giving more and more attention to standards of academic research; we are always striving to improve the Chinese educational system.

Yu Zhu

Jan. 15

The writer is a non-degree graduate student in the English Department visiting from Peking University.