Monica Crowley’s Dissertation Facing a Second, Desperate Defense at Columbia

Cont. Ed. Class & Campus Photos

By Benjamin M. Adams,  March 9, 2017      Follow on Twitter:  @BenAdamsO_O

Some of you may know that I have an M.Phil degree in Political Science from Columbia University. The M.Phil is a fancy name for finishing all parts of your PhD except for the dissertation. Some schools don’t offer a fancy degree for achieving the dubious rank that I attained– they simply call it ABD, as in All But Doctorate. I am ABD for the same reason lots of other people are ABD. That is, I did not complete and defend an original work of independent research scholarship– a doctoral dissertation– required to achieve a PhD. My reasons for not completing the dissertation were varied and weird, especially since my well-renowned dissertation adviser was arrested just as I was getting started. This story is not about me, but now you may see why I’ve taken a keen interest in the Monica Crowley plagiarism story as detailed by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski here and here.

My primary goal was to find out if Columbia was doing anything about the alleged misconduct. Yes, I am saying alleged but only because there has been no final legal or academic determination. The CNN report clearly shows that Ms. Crowley repeatedly lifted the thoughts and words of others without attribution, and as her own. It is difficult to conclude that major plagiarism was not committed by Ms. Crowley.  When I reached Columbia University for comment, I was directed to a junior person in the press relations office. The following exchange ensued:

Hi Monique. It was lovely speaking with you. I happen to be a Columbia alum. Here are my questions–

  1. Does the University have a specific policy with respect to approved PhD dissertations that are later found to be plagiarized?
  1. Is the University aware of plagiarism claims related to PhD earned by Monica Crowley?
  2. Is the University taking steps to address those claims of plagiarism related to Monica Crowley?
  1. If so, what are those steps?

The staffer seemed a bit caught off guard and explained that she needed to speak with a superior. Eventually, I received the following email from Robert Hornsby:

Dear Mr. Adams: We have no comment on Monica Crowley’s dissertation, which was submitted in 2000 and is publicly available. The University’s process for addressing concerns raised about University research preserves the confidentiality of any review, and even the fact of a review’s existence is confidential while it is underway. Columbia is committed to upholding the very highest standards of integrity and credibility in academic research.

This did not satisfy me. In fact, it struck me as mealy-mouthed doublespeak. So I followed up. Twenty years as an attorney taught me a little something about the next question…

thanks very much. i appreciate your prompt response…one of the questions was — Is the University aware of plagiarism claims related to the PhD earned by Monica Crowley? last question, if there was an inquiry by the University, would the University make a statement at its conclusion if action/no action is taken?  

This is when Columbia tried to get snippy with me:

Ben: We have no additional comment or information to share.

Ugh. He said “share.” I wanted to say “Dude, this is not kindergarten show-and-tell. You are a University at the center of an academic shit-storm.” I held my tongue and simply shot back:

Thank you, but that response seems entirely disingenuous. Here are links… Columbia is really not willing to confirm it knows what is going on in the world? That seems odd and inadequate. 

No response. I waited a few weeks and considered dropping the inquiry but today Monica Crowley decided to go on TV and falsely claim that Andrew’s excellent reporting had been debunked. So that was enough for me to send another inquiry:

Robert I never heard back from you. Ms. Crowley is now on television falsely claiming that the plagiarism story was debunked. Does Columbia University have any comment on those false statements? Finally can you confirm or not that Columbia University is aware of the controversy? Simple questions. Please provide a response. Thanks very much for your time.

Today, I finally got a response:

Mr. Adams: Yes, we are aware of this issue, but as I’ve said repeatedly, we do not comment about investigations, not even to confirm or deny that any particular investigation is taking place (or not).

I asked one final question, would Columbia announce the results of an inquiry, if one is held. Yes, this definitely sounds like Star Chamber. No comment from Columbia yet. For those of you interested, the process for an investigation of plagiarism is pretty substantial and is detailed here. Apparently there is a Standing Committee on the Conduct of Research. Unresolved allegations of plagiarism are decided there. Presumably, this is where Ms. Cowley’s fate will be decided, although decisions of the Committee can be appealed to the University Provost.

BREAKING/UPDATE – After multiple discussions with Columbia officials, I cannot yet confirm that an inquiry is pending. I have that on rumor (and from a very good source) but I don’t peddle (much) in rumors. Independently, I can confirm that an additional academic Complaint — an “Allegation” per University guidelines — is likely to be filed imminently. It seems Ms. Crowley’s PhD will require one more defense.

For further updates, follow me on Twitter. @BenAdamsO_O


About Benjamin M. Adams
Recovering Attorney, Dad of Six, Concerned Citizen

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