Dear Mr. Barnes:
I want to thank you for bringing the problem of plagiarism to the fore with your stories on Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin. The seriousness of this problem in academia is revealed in the number of web sites devoted to telling teachers how they can detect it in papers by students.
How can we convince students that plagiarism is bad when we honor two men guilty of plagiarism far more serious than that of Stephen Ambrose? One is Martin Luther King Jr. The holiday honoring him fell while the plagiarism stories were in the news. Those who wrote them did not mention that Boston University gave King his Ph.D. even though they knew it was loaded with plagiarism. The other is Alex Haley.
The 25th anniversary of the "Roots" TV series was celebrated on Jan. 18. No stories mentioned that "Roots" was so close to Harold Courlander's "The African" that in 1978 Courlander sued and won over $500,000 to settle. Few people know this.