Monday, 2 July 2012

Is Romania a real country or a case of plagiarism?


"For this you are famous in the East ― You sad, joking country." George Bacovia, 1930

The President of Hungary and the German defence minister both resigned as a result of plagiarism allegations but it does not look as if the Romanian Prime Minister is likely to follow their example. He is more likely to get away with it like Vladimir Putin and, going back some time, Joe Biden (though Biden only plagiarised a passage from a speech which does not seem serious compared to plagiarising a large part of a thesis)

The British grande dame of scientific journals, Nature, has said that the Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta plagiarised his doctoral thesis. Victor Ponta, in an interview given to El Pais a week ago, promised to resign were he found to have plagiarised his thesis. Romania's National Council for Certification of Titles, Diplomas and University Certificates (CNATDCU) said on Friday that 85 pages of Prime Minister Victor Ponta's thesis were copied, 
without naming any source. No fair minded observer doubts that this is proven. "I found nothing but plagiarism of a copy-paste type," said Marius Andruh, the highly respected president of the CNATDCU's general council. "The council wanted to remove the title of doctor." 

The decision of the Council was unanimous but they were only thirteen strong and therefore one short of a quorum. In any case they were also too late. An hour before the Council reached its judgment, the acting Education Minister (Victor Ponta's two previous nominees as Education Minister had had to stand down after accusations of plagiarism) changed the constitution of the Council to increase its size from twenty to forty-five members. The Ministry of Education has also said that the plagiarism is a not a matter for the CNATDCU at all, but the University of Bucharest's ethics committee. Other academic panjandrums have weighed in with other ideas about which committee has jurisdiction.

Nobody in Bucharest, in politics, in the press or in the street expects Mr. Ponta to resign. They are not in the least surprised (it is hard to surprise Bucuresteni) about the plagiarism though they are very scornful (Bucuresteni are very scornful a lot of the time, about a great many things). His supervisor, while he wrote his thesis, was the then Prime Minister, Adrian Nastase, who, coincidentally, started a prison sentence this week for corruption. That did surprise everybody - not the corruption, but the prison sentence. It was reported that Mr. Nastase tried to take his own life when the police arrived to take him to prison. Now the doctors who attended him after he is said to have shot himself are themselves the defendants in proceedings  in which they are accused of having staged the whole thing. It seems the suicide attempt may have been another case of plagiarism. 

The outside world has made up its mind about the plagiarism and so have the other EU leaders at the summit, at which Ponta insisted on representing Romania, in defiance of the Constitutional Court's ruling that it was for President Basescu to attend. But Victor Ponta does not care about world opinion and world opinion does not spend much time thinking about him. He may however care about investor confidence - Moody's lowered Romania's credit rating from stable to negative from fear the crisis in the Eurozone may affect Romania. We shall see whether Ponta's party the PSD or his ally the National Liberal Party will stick with him till the parliamentary elections

On rare occasions, as now, Romanian politics seems fascinating, but then move the prism a fraction and it seems the opposite of fascinating. Though they belong to a nation of rugby players, Romanian politicians have a habit of fumbling the ball which makes politics unpredictable but ultimately tiring to watch.

One day, perhaps soon, I shall write about a question which has long interested me - the question of whether Romania is a real country or has for a long time been an example of plagiarism on a vast scale, since the time when she ceased to be two backward Ottoman protectorates and became a country with a constitution modelled on Belgium's and a capital known (like several other cities in the world) as the Paris of the East.


  1. There is NO official body in charge of judging plagiarism of a thesis in Romania, hence why it's so easy to do it and a large majority of PhD holders are probably imposters. They do not use the software we do (God, the stress I felt knowing my dissertation was going through the software at C'bridge - that I hadn't quoted properly, cited adequately, labelled and referenced enough...) Imagine it, a country so admired for its latter-day intellectuals (Spiru Haret, Alexandru Rosetti come immediately to mind) now full of fake copy/paste so-called 'Drs' - between the PM, the country's General Prosecutor, Mang, Dumitrescu, the minister of agriculture and a whole bunch of others ALL have been accused of nicking other peoples work and calling it there own from degree level upwards.

    In Romania, you can get a PhD in three years (I know people who have - one who managed it in two and a half). Elsewhere it is 5-7... a PhD in Romania is in no way equal to what we consider a PhD in the western neck of the woods.

    Having a PhD in Romania is a matter of snobbism - a root from communism. Elena Ceausescu as you know got hers when she was illiterate (and was the death of poor Nenitescu who threw her out of his office in disgust and later had a heart attack from the terrible stress of what would happen to him in consequence). Why a politician would need one anyway is beyond me. Surely, a good, solid education up to a degree standard (not even MA) and then a great deal of common sense and life experience is what is required. The Romanian PhD is not what it used to be - and hasn't been for decades...

    Romanians don't take all this seriously because chez eux, everyone has a 'doctorat'. Its nothing unusual. It's not even that admirable or impressive. Someone asked me once whether I had one and when I said no,I had an MA though, they kind of sneered! "Aren't you going to get one? It's just a couple of years." I didn't get it at the time. But I get it now.

    Your average Romanian doesn't expect him to stand down (only those living outside Romanian long enough to absorb different priorities and values do) for this reason and also because they know full well that he is too arrogant to do so, will not accept shame and will blame everyone else from the commitee to the cleaning lady to the neighbour's dog.

    The ridiculous "I'll stand down if Basescu stands down with me' is just laughable - let the people decide. 'The people' have no one to vote for... what a situation. Come November, USL will win the elections, because as Silvia Colfescu wrote in her superb article day before yesterday entitled 'Poporul plateste', "nu stie". And that's exactly it.

    I am sure that the commission to judge Ponta's fake blurb once and for all will be hand chosen and loaded with PSD-ists who will find him innocent as the driven snow. they won't even revoke his qualification - and Ponta will offer to give it up to show what a nice, honest guy he this space. The idiots (who 'nu stie' mai bine) will be very impressed with that.

    But the damage has been done. International opinion has made its verdict and will consider him a plagiarist for always. Not that he cares.

    It's very sad that Romania has become so famous for something as disgraceful rather than for something positive. Any PhD coming out of Romania from this point on (if it wasn't before) will be seen as dubious - and there are some who have the bona fide award having worked their toes off for it.

    Sorry, a rather long comment...

  2. ... and once you've been outside the country long enough, seeing these kind of things gives you a 'sudden' urge the gather them all up and put a firing squad in front of them.