Carleen Basler Resigns After Admitting to Plagiarism
Issue   |   Tue, 09/25/2012 - 21:33
Photo Courtesy of www.amherst.edu
Former professor Carleen Basler speaking at the 2008 Senior Assembly.

Last Monday, Sept. 17, former professor Carleen Basler resigned from the College after admitting that her written work contained unattributed verbatim quotations and improper references of other scholars’ work.

“My reason for resigning is simple. In certain sections of my scholarly work, I unintentionally failed to cite and improperly cited previously published materials. In the realm of academic scholarship, such mistakes are very serious in nature,” Basler said in a statement given to The Student.

Discovery and Acknowledgment

The plagiarism in Basler’s work was discovered when she was being reviewed for tenure in the Anthropology and Sociology and the American Studies departments. As is common with any tenure review, the senior members of the departments were reviewing all of her written work, closely reading it themselves, as well as sending it to outside scholars for review.
“In the course of that reading, those faculty began to have some questions and then they started to look and to find things,” Dean of the Faculty Gregory Call said.

After finding some irregularities, the senior members then approached Dean Call and showed him and the rest of his office what they found.

“Over the course of a couple of days, they transmitted material that they had found with the references to the unquoted work,” Dean Call said.

After gathering those materials, the Dean of the Faculty’s office analyzed it separately and verified that the senior members’ allegations were true. During this verification process, Dean Call informed Basler about the proceedings and presented her with side-by-side evidence.

“She readily acknowledged that there were unattributed quotations in her work,” Dean Call said. “She indicated her deep regret and then we worked through how we would handle the process.”

There is a set of procedures in place in the faculty handbook for these situations. They followed those procedures, which included meetings between Basler and Dean Call. Basler then decided to resign voluntarily.

“Resigning from my position at Amherst College was a very difficult decision but one that I believe is in the best interest of my family, my students and the greater Amherst College community,” she wrote in her statement. “I could have gone through the College’s adjudication process, but as the mistakes are mine, I believe resignation was the most honorable and ethical course of action.”

The Nature of the Plagiarism

The plagiarism was found in material dating back to her dissertation. In an email to the faculty, Dean Call wrote that Basler admitted that her work contained “unattributed verbatim quotations and/or other unattributed or improperly referenced work of other scholars.”

Although the plagiarism existed in much of her work, Chair of American Studies Karen Sánchez-Eppler explained that the unattributed quotes were only found in certain parts.

“Fairly frequently in her written work, which is work that is characterized by original research and whose central core arguments are as far as we can see original and her own, she relied on pretty large sections of prose from other scholars to provide the context, to provide the literature review or the historical background,” Professor Karen Sánchez-Eppler said. “The big findings were hers and were in her own words, but a lot of the background materials she used [were] other scholars’ work.”

Professor Karen Sánchez-Eppler also mentioned the way in which today’s technology makes finding plagiarism easier, while also making committing plagiarism more “tempting.”

“I think that we probably, as an institution, need to spend more time not in a punitive way, but in a really thoughtful way, thinking, what do we mean by intellectual honesty, how do you write in a world where the screen that you’re writing on and the screen that you’re reading on is the same screen?”

Struggles with Writing

Although Basler does not write in her statement to The Student why she committed plagiarism, some of the faculty believes that it was caused by her struggles and insecurities with writing.

“When we talked about it after it was discovered, she was pretty forthright with me about the things that were difficult for her in writing,” Professor Karen Sánchez-Eppler said. “I care immensely about her, and I think she had really slowly over the course of her education and her career trapped herself.”

Christian Aviles ’14E, a student and previous advisee of Basler’s, who was present at a meeting the departments held last Friday, Sept. 21 for any students that had questions about the situation, explained that some of the professors expressed that Basler had always been insecure about her writing. According to the professors, he said, she refused help that they offered her when she was writing any work for publication or submitting it for her tenure review.

“Obviously there has to be some personal accountability... But, at the same time, it can be hard to ask for help in academic settings,” said Abigail Bereola ’15, an advisee of Basler’s, who was also at the meeting on Friday. “If you’re not asking for help on a lower level — high school, college — or you’re not able to get help on a lower level, at a certain point, you’re probably going to stop asking.”

Creating a More Helpful Academic Environment

Since some believe that Basler did not ask for help because she didn’t feel that Amherst was a safe and understanding place, both faculty and students brought to the forefront the issue of creating a better environment in which people feel more comfortable coming forward with their academic problems.

“I think the important part of it, I guess, is that I feel that there’s a lot that we can learn about how to support vulnerabilities and deficits,” Professor Karen Sánchez-Eppler said. “How do we as an institution make it a place where when people feel that they’re getting stuck — and I think that this is true for our students as well as our faculty — that when they’re feeling stuck, they can say ‘I’m stuck, help me,’ and not try to cover it up? That’s the kind of soul-searching that we as an institution need to do.”

Alexa Hettwer ’13 was in the MRC Steering Committee as well as the Mental Health Task Force with Basler. Although Hettwer never took a class with Basler, she still interacted with her outside the classroom and grew to admire her. Hettwer too thinks that this situation should make the institution rethink the ways it does certain things.

“I don’t think the public focus should at all be on judging her personal life. I personally do not see intent to deceive, (and am not looking for evidence of personality flaws,) but do see a lot of opportunities for reevaluation of Amherst’s support for its diversity of professors and our understanding of Intellectual Property Rights, which have a very, let’s say, convoluted history,” Hettwer said.

Leaving a Mark in the Classroom

Despite the problems that Basler faced as a writer and a scholar, she was well-respected and well-liked by most of her students. Both Aviles and Bereola said in their interviews that a professor at the meeting on Friday mentioned that in their time reviewing professors for tenure, they had never seen more positive student letters for any other professor.

Aviles took "White Identity" with Basler his first year at Amherst before knowing what he wanted to major in, and it was that class with her that convinced him to declare Sociology as his major.

“As a professor, I thought she was amazing,” Aviles said. “She was there to learn from us as much as we would learn from her; that’s what she told us. I thought her methods of teaching were really effective.”

Faculty such as Professor Karen Sánchez-Eppler also recognized her abilities in the classroom.

“She’s an extremely warm and engaging person both as a scholar — interviewing people — and I think as a leader of classroom discussions,” Professor Karen Sánchez-Eppler said. “[She’s] remarkably good at getting people to delve deeply into complicated situations and to talk about touchy subjects candidly and probingly and respectfully.”

Despite plagiarizing in her own work, Basler still pushed her students to avoid the trap that, according to Professor Karen Sánchez-Eppler, she had fallen into.

“I think that a lot of what was so powerful in her teaching was a real commitment not to let other students she was working with get trapped in the same ways, to really make sure that she was helping students to develop the skills that they needed to do the best work that they had and they could,” Professor Karen Sánchez-Eppler said.

“I’ve come to see her own internal wrestles as part of the fire in her commitment to trying to figure out how you get institutions to serve all of its students well, despite the diversity of preparation with which they come here,” she added.

Impacting Student Life

Basler was not only interested in students’ academics, but she was also very invested in student life. Coming from a Mexican-American background, she was particularly interested in the diversity of the student body.

“Like you, we know Professor Basler as a superb teacher and mentor, committed fully to the students she taught and advised, and devoted to making Amherst the diverse, inclusive, and intellectually challenging place it aspires to be,” Ron Lembo, Chair of the Anthropology and Sociology department, wrote in a letter to majors of the department.

In addition to discussing student life and diversity of the student body in her classes, she also joined faculty committees which dealt specifically with those issues.

“She was an extraordinarily committed member of the College in terms of being willing to be on every Orientation panel, every discussion group, [she was] a very public actor really invested in student life and student well-being,” Professor Karen Sánchez-Eppler said.

“I think a lot of the really good work that she did on all of those things are legacies that she leaves to us and are real accomplishments. I would sincerely, sincerely hope that nobody sees this as lessening that or undermining that in any way,” she added.

Hettwer attests to this commitment to student life, as she described Basler as the “the main faculty voice on both of those committees [MRC Steering Committee and Mental Health Task Force].”

As an advisor, Basler also played a role in her students’ lives. Bereola was Basler’s advisee her first-year, and she recalled that many other first-years she knew only had advisors “by name” and interacted with them only through email. Bereola, on the other hand, met with Basler often, going to her for both academic and personal help.

“Honestly, if she hadn’t been my advisor — if I hadn’t felt the connection that I had with her — I possibly could be in the process of transferring or would have already transferred,” Bereola said.

Student Reactions

Since finding out about the situation, students have reacted in a variety of ways. Bereola, for example, described the past week as an “emotional rollercoaster.” She also emphasized the need to realize that Basler, although an esteemed professor, was human.

“People are human and they make mistakes,” she said. “Obviously those mistakes are going to have consequences, but I think that there should be room to make mistakes and to ask for help if you need it.”

Bereola acknowledged that Basler’s plagiarism was “in the academic setting, possibly the worst thing you can do.” However, she believes that the impact that Basler made on her life through her advising and mentoring is more important that what she did as a scholar and writer.

“I know that even though I didn’t personally take a class with her, she taught me a lot just by being here and by allowing me to be in her life and learn from her,” Bereola said. “I’ll always really appreciate that and she’ll always be a major part of my Amherst experience regardless of what happens after this.”

Although Bereola responded well to the discovery of Basler’s plagiarism, Aviles did not. The weeks before Basler’s resignation, Aviles had been in meetings with some members of the administration, including President Carolyn Martin and Dean Call, advocating for her tenure, as he believed her to be the perfect candidate. When he was informed of the plagiarism, he could not believe it.

Refusing to believe that Basler could have committed plagiarism, Aviles decided to do some research himself. He looked up an article written by Basler and put different sentences into Google. In the first 20 pages, he said, he found about 13 sentences which were plagiarized.

“At that point, I just stopped. I just started crying. I was really frustrated, I was really sad. I was angry. I had all these different emotions. I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

Understanding that many other students’ reactions align more with Bereola’s, Aviles explained that he knew that his view was “unpopular,” but that he could not understand how others could easily overlook the plagiarism.

“I guess they’re really clinging on to the goodness and positive aspects that she brought into the campus, but for me, because I held her on such a high pedestal, now … I can’t look at her the same way anymore,” he said.

Creating Doubt in Her Students

In regards to Basler’s students, Professor Karen Sánchez-Eppler expressed concerns that students that looked up to her would start questioning their own abilities. She explained that Basler would not want the students to start doubting themselves and resorting to plagiarism to succeed.

“My concern with students who so admire her and who she’s been such a wonderful mentor is that I don’t want this in any way to disillusion them,” she said. “For the students who really have learned so much from her and with her, the best thing that they can do is to go on with their own highest ambitions and strongest integrity, and that’s what she would want for them.”

She also brought up this concern at the meeting on Friday. Aviles explained that for him, that did not make him feel better; instead it made him start doubting himself since he had not seen the situation from that angle before.

“It just gets you thinking, if someone who was your role model and your mentor, if someone who you really look up to was capable of doing that, where does that leave the rest of us?”

Finding New Professors

The administration, in addition to communicating with students to make sure they’re handling the situation well (President Martin reached out to Aviles to schedule an appointment to make sure he was coping), also had to find new professors for the two classes that Basler was teaching during this semester. She was teaching a first-year seminar, Race and Racialization in the United States, and an upper-level seminar, Race and Politics in the United States.

Dean Call was able to find professors to teach the classes at the time at which they were originally scheduled. For the first-year seminar, Dean Call spoke to Visiting Lecturer Benigno Sánchez-Eppler. Professor Benigno Sánchez-Eppler, whose official work when he’s not teaching for the College is translating, saw an “opportunity to make a contribution.”

Professor Benigno Sánchez-Eppler explained that the faculty understood that his area of study was not sociology; it was instead literary and cultural studies. Although he will be using some of texts that Basler had assigned for the course, which he described as very “good and up-to-date,” he will also be adding some literary texts so he can teach students through his own expertise.

“It’s still an introduction to intellectual life and how to express yourself intelligently in class and how to get the professor to work for you and how to write. So those things will get done,” he said.

A replacement for the upper-class seminar took more searching than did the first-year seminar, but Dean Robinson, Associate Professor of Political Science at UMass, was eventually found, and he accepted the role.

Her advisees, students in a Special Topics course with her, as well as the students that were working on a thesis with her, will be reassigned to other professors that most fit their area of study.

“In all of this, we ask for your patience,” Professor Lembo wrote in his letter. “We will work through this successfully.”
One of the top priorities for the administration is to begin a search to find another professor in the U.S. Latino Studies area for the departments. The faculty hopes to have found a replacement for her by the beginning of the next fall semester.

“The College is committed to the areas Professor Basler was hired to teach, and we expect to authorize a search in U.S. Latino Studies this year,” Dean Call wrote in an email to the faculty.

Reflection on the College

Despite the possibility that Basler’s resignation might create negative press for the College, President Martin does not believe that this will happen.

“It’ll be perceived that the tenure system and the peer review that is part of that tenure system worked and that the College has been open about the incident or incidents,” President Martin said. “I don’t think anyone will think any less of Amherst College as a result any more than they will think less well of the institution where she got her Ph.D. These things are rare, but they happen as things happen in all institutions that we wish didn’t but occasionally they do.”

Professor Karen Sánchez-Eppler felt that although it is likely for this to be seen as negative thing by some and a positive thing by others, in the end, that is of little significance.

“I think it’s as likely to reflect badly on Amherst as it is to reflect well on Amherst. [But] I guess I don’t care about that,” she said. “The important thing is for us to be as forthright as we can be, while still trying to be respectful of Professor Basler and not parade her.”

Repercussions and the Future

Although the plagiarism was found during the tenure review at the College, the administration still had a responsibility to inform other affected parties about it.

“We do have an obligation, according not only to our own ethical standards, but also according the policies that are described by the American Association of University Professors, to inform publishers and inform any other institutions,” President Martin said.

Dean Call reached out to colleagues at Yale University, where Basler received her Ph.D., to inform them of the plagiarism, which was also found in her dissertation. Julia Adams, Chair of the Department of Sociology at Yale University, said the university is conducting its own investigation on the plagiarism before making any decisions regarding her Ph.D.

“My colleagues and I were shocked to learn that Carleen Basler had plagiarized part of her academic work while completing her doctoral studies in sociology at Yale University. Neither the Sociology department nor Yale University tolerates plagiarism, which is a fundamental breach of trust as well as an ethical violation,” Professor Adams wrote in a statement to The Student. “Besides being a breach of trust and an ethical violation, plagiarism also gives rise to a great deal of pain, suffering, and personal humiliation, and I am confident that Amherst’s academic leadership and college community are dealing with the fallout in the best and most humane way possible.”

Although Basler did not mention her plans for the future in her statement, Professor Karen Sánchez-Eppler expressed what she hopes for Basler’s future.

“My big hope for her is that she will be able to make a new professional life for herself that’s all about her strengths and all about the things that she does really, really well, and not as hobbled as her time here has been.”

To read Carleen Basler’s full statement to The Student, go to: http://amherststudent.amherst.edu/?q=article/2012/09/25/letter-editor

For students that wish to write a letter to Basler, there will be a letter writing session sponsored by the MRC and the Dean of Students Office on Sept. 27, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Friedmann Room. Stationery and writing utensils will be provided.

Anchor
Comments
Anonymous (not verified) says:
Tue, 09/25/2012 - 23:18

oh, the tragedy...

Larry (not verified) says:
Tue, 09/25/2012 - 23:44

quotations make.

A recent grad (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 10:50

If you get her dissertation and article, you will see what is so scary about her fraud. No number of quotation marks would have saved it. Just so many paragraphs and sentences. It is amazing. The author of this should have done that research, because it would have produced a very very different article.

Amanda Rodrigue... (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 00:44

This is not a news article, this is a gossip column. I understand the need to report Professor Basler's resignation and the reasons behind it -- but writing an article this long, including arrogant, judgmental quotations by a student, and mentioning that Yale is conducting their own investigation is completely unnecessary and, quite frankly, an invasion of privacy. The faculty clearly say they don't want to parade her -- so let's not.

I think Professor Sanchez-Eppler makes a good distinction between background information and the main ideas in Professor Basler's work. In conducting my own literature reviews, I have read introduction after introduction by different scholars that contain eerily similar organization and wording. Poor citation should blemish, not ruin, a reputation as a Professor. Nor should it ruin the way we remember someone who played such a vital role in the success of many, many students. I can't count the number of students with whom I have spoken about the unique ways Professor Basler connected with, modeled for, and supported her students; about how the material she taught provided a space and a voice when we were struggling to find one. Above all, Carleen Basler is an educator -- she is passionate and dedicated, to her students and to Amherst College. And despite this article's attempt to publicly humiliate and tarnish her deep successes, I hope people remember her invaluable contributions to students and the college, and that her positive legacy lives on.

Frustrated (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 09:19

This article lets Basler completely off the hook for committing profound fraud. It goes above and beyond to talk about the wonderful things she has done as an educator. But she's also a fraudulent academic. She didn't just "poorly cite" things. She used other people's words in a pattern of plagiarism over the course of many, many years. That's serious business. Yale *should* conduct an investigation, and that *is* news, no matter how much we love what Basler has done for the school and for many students on a personal level.

'12 Graduate (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 12:17

I agree it was longer than it needed to be, but I don't think the article was arrogant or judgmental. Yes, it included a quote of a student with those reservations, but it also included several quotes of other students and faculty members that came to Basler's defense. If anything, that "arrogant" quote was in the minority of the opinions regarding Basler, not the majority (as the student himself points out in the article). I don't think it's fair to criticize a journal article for trying to point out all the sides of an issue just because you don't agree with one of those viewpoints, especially when that student was originally a big fan of Basler's.

While I don't think it was *necessary* to note that Yale is conducting their own investigation, I find it a valuable piece of information to include because it not only points to the seriousness of the situation, but can serve as a warning to students (and faculty alike) to possibly deter them from committing similar mistakes.

I agree that Eppler's distinction between background information and concepts is a good one. Clearly, the plagiarism of arguments and ideas is a much more serious infraction than that of background information. I have done several literature reviews myself, and I can attest to the fact that authors often mirror each other's styles and wording. Having said that, I suggest you go and look at the work in question yourself. I just read Basler's dissertation and the articles in question, and to be honest, I was surprised... there were several entire sentences that were copied word for word. You are 100% right when you say poor citation should blemish, not ruin, a professor's reputation. But having read the material, I can say that this it is not a matter of poor citation, but blatant copying (again, please don't just take my word for it, go and read it yourself and make your own judgements). Also, I don't think this article's intent was to ruin Basler's reputation; on the contrary, I think it has an overall sympathetic attitude towards her.

Also, I don't think this article is questioning the vital role she played in the Amherst community. Yes, she is passionate and dedicated. Yes, she was directly involved (and even responsible for) the success of several students. But the bottom line is there is clear evidence that, at some points, she poorly cited her sources, and at others, she copied some work verbatim. This article reported the facts and the viewpoints of students on campus. Unfortunately, some people were more offended by her actions than others. The sad thing is that plagiarism is inherently embarrassing. I don't believe the intent of those who disapprove of Basler's actions was to humiliate her. Instead, I think these people genuinely looked up to her and were disappointed in what happened. Yes it's a little humiliating, but 1) that was not the point of this article, and 2) the only reason it was humiliating is because of the high standard the students, faculty, and Basler has held herself to since she is such a great teacher

Frustrated (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 12:50

I'm disturbed by the fact that a professor in this article, and several commenters here, are suggesting that plagiarism isn't so bad if it's "just the lit review." Really? Copying is copying, and it is FRAUD. I bet if you polled Amherst students, 100% would agree that you can't straight up lift words from someone else's writing and put them in your own when it's "just" the lit review. This is a MAJOR breach of the basic ethical requirements of our work in the academy. I hope folks aren't leaving this story with the sense that sometimes it's ok to copy, as long as somewhere deep inside you is an original thought. It's hard to deal with the fact that someone wonderful has done these fraudulent things, but let's not gloss over it.

AA (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 16:41

Hardly an invasion of privacy. The article never deviates from discussing these matters in a professional way. It is balanced, and in calling for the institution to change is perhaps misunderstanding and misappropriating too much sympathy for Prof. Basler's indiscretions. If you look up her dissertation and do some cross-checking (basic googling) you'll see that 1) it was indeed intentional and 2) if Yale had done due diligence and uncovered this she would never have been granted a PhD. She engaged in fraud to gain credentials that allowed her to enjoy the benefits, securities and financial compensation afforded to Amherst faculty. So, regardless of how good or bad she is "as a person". this discussion is simply about the fundamental, black-and-white, good old-fashioned cheating and lying that is so clearly a violation of students and faculty's trust.

Risalat Khan '13 (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 01:25

Very well done, Brianda.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 07:21

I'm confused by this article. It seems to suggest that Basler, like any student, struggled to ask for help that should have been more readily available. Except Basler was not a student. She was a Yale-trained Ph.D. who surely knew better. That doesn't mean she wasn't good at the parts of her job she was good at, but this is a strange apologetic for what were patterns of cheating over years and years, stretching back to the *dissertation*. I'm baffled that the article doesn't seem to see these as serious infractions that strike at the very heart of the integrity of the entire academic enterprise, but instead as "unintentional" (really? "unintentional"? for 10+ years, sentence after sentence, as as Aviles himself found via *google*? That doesn't sound unintentional!) "mistakes" by a stressed out woman. This does a disservice to all the scholars and scholars in training (students) who also struggle, but never, ever cheat. This isn't a personal attack, but the facts. The tone of this article suggests we should feel sorry for Basler who was victimized by a system that didn't understand that writing is hard for some of us. That is offensive, no matter how inspirational she was as a teacher. She can be inspirational to students in other capacities--in student life, in a professional appointment in residential life, as a counselor--but as a scholar, she has failed, and that shouldn't be sugar-coated.

Jhon Doh (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/01/2012 - 15:11

I would respectfully point out the while the documentary trail ends at the dissertation it is entirely likely that her plagiarism did not begin with the dissertation. In all probability it began at the Undergraduate level. Most wrongdoers don't start their "crimes" at full speed but rather work up to them in a gradual way with each success leading to another greater wrong.

That's one thing but the other is this. The condescension to minorities is this article is just plain insulting. Wrong is wrong. There are no special dispensations for the "disadvantaged." Either you do right and stand or fall on your own merits or you do not. If you do not you are a ward -a mascot never to be accorded the dignity or respect due the truly accomplished.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 10:19

Excellent news article -- it consults all the relevant people and lets them do the talking. Well done.

Benjamin Lin (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 10:29

My initial reaction to reading the article was that it is well done, but is clearly sympathetic to Prof Basler. This is certainly not parading - if anything, it's almost an attempt at explaining her actions, with several cursory reminders that it can't, technically, be excused. Academic fraud is fraud, whatever her motivations.

I'm surprised there could have been plagiarism in her dissertation and Yale didn't catch that. This is not supposed to reflect poorly on Amherst or Yale, but I find it does seem to point out that Amherst's process appeared to work, while Yale's did not.

A recent grad (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 10:35

I find this article very misleading and in need of some serious clarification. I will post a list:

- the article does not interview the president, Dean of Faculty, the chair of Sociology, faculty of color, or any other faculty who work on minority issues (no one from Black Studies was interviewed? Really?).

- the article allows Basler to state that she did this unintentionally. See for yourself. If you are on campus, you can get her one published article and her dissertation for free. Google sentences. I was on campus last weekend and am leaving this afternoon. I did this myself and what I found was amazing. If you see it for yourself, you will never be able to say she did it unintentionally. I promise. The intent is clear.

- Sanchez-Eppler imagines a scenario in which plagiarism like this happens. I have two questions to that and the author should have asked them. First off, don't most academics have writing insecurity and anxiety and families and competing pressures? I'm sure they do. And do they commit fraud (nice word from above)? No, they don't. That's important when you try to explain this away. Second of all, Basler never said that about herself. It is the imagination of a (sorry) white liberal who seems to think we people of color are sad and incapable. We aren't. This is Basler's doing, not society's.

- we have lots of accomplished, prestigious faculty of color here. Suarez, Ferguson, Lopez, Parham, Cobham-Sander, Abiodun, Hayashi. They all have books and numerous articles. This "safe environment" crap demeans their accomplishments. It really does. Why? Because it suggests that a logical and reasonable response to being minority on this campus is to cheat and fraud institutions. What does that mean when ALL THE OTHER MINORITY FACULTY DO NOT FRAUD AND CHEAT? Either it means that they are sellouts (Fergie and Parham as sellouts? HA!) or it means that Basler is hiding behind a smokescreen to hide her own deception.

- A student says that copyright law is evolving. Well, factual point here: it will never evolve to the point where verbatim transcription of another person's words is permissible. And that's what Basler did. Get her article and dissertation and see for yourself.

- Last thing: I heard from many students when I was here that Basler is calling them and telling them all kinds of stuff. She is obviously trying to control the story. If that is true (the AmStudent should try to figure if that's true - you're journalists!), then I think we would all be troubled. Wouldn't we?

I hope you let this comment post. Some clarifications are needed. This article offers tons of apology for Basler. How about we treat her like a rational adult and hold her responsible for her actions, which were her actions and her actions alone.

Recent alumnus (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 10:38

I have a hard time with this 'writing insecurity' narrative, for the specific reason that the plagiarized portions were basically lit reviews. Someone who is driven ("driven") to plagiarism b/c they are insecure about their academic abilities or writing skills or worth as a scholar isn't going to plagiarize a lit review, they're going to plagiarize arguments and conclusions! Lit review is tedious and time-consuming and boring as hell, but it definitely isn't hard. You just read a lot of shit and summarize it. There's some challenge in figuring out what sources deserve more vs. less extensive treatment, but compared to actually generating a productive and novel intervention in the scholarly landscape that challenge is pretty much trivial.

I can't help but feel like you don't plagiarize lit review because you're insecure, you plagiarize it because you don't want to do the boring legwork involved in producing credible scholarship. All of this is to say that *even if there are cases where we should regard plagiarism as less bad because it was produced by academic pressures and insecurity* (which I'm not convinced there are, but whatever) this doesn't seem to be one of them.

wth (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 13:02

She stole the language of other scholars. Period. Students in their first month of college would get suspended for this, and she gets a pass because "writing is hard"? Really? At AMHERST COLLEGE?

you know... (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 13:44

If some people think you're too harsh, and some people think you're too nice, clearly, you have written a balanced article, Ms Reyes.

Dave (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 14:51

It seems like a lot of commenters missed the point of this story. It's a great story for several reasons. From an outside perspective not within the Amherst community, it tells a story of a beloved professor who was caught doing what professors everywhere implore their students not to do on repeated occasions because it can lead to serious consequences. Plagiarism is plagiarism, no matter how benign. This story provides a great lesson in what can happen to those who decide to plagiarize. And more importantly, it demonstrates that this can happen to ANYONE, even people with good intentions or great scholarly esteem. I think this will serve as a cautionary tale, for students and faculty alike everywhere. It's not a scandal, it's a learning opportunity

'01 alum (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 14:55

A little over a decade ago, Karin Weyland (now a professor at the University of Puero Rico) was denied tenure, for reasons unknown to me. Now Basler. Amherst clearly is committed to cultivating a tenured professor in the field of Latino Studies, but has failed over a number of years to do so. I'm curious whether it's a coincidence or a pattern--is it bad luck, a shortage of candidates with the right stuff for the position, or something else?

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 15:57

See, this is the danger of not being honest about the extent of Basler's cheating. She didn't get tenure and resigned because her scholarship was fraudulent, not because Amherst has a pattern of not tenuring scholars in this field. I don't know what happened with Dr. Weyland, but the implication here is not subtle, and it isn't warranted in the case of Basler. And by the way, this didn't "happen" to her, nor does it suggest "it could happen to anyone." She copied other people's stuff all on her own.

NotImpressed (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/01/2012 - 12:14

It is difficult to attract a real professor to teach an imaginary subject.

Fictional disciplines which exist as a sophisticated (in the original sense) smoke screen for Cultural Marxism can't help but attract faculty who are less than honest. If you want faculty who are dedicated to the truth, you must start with a field of study founded upon the pursuit of truth.

Karen Sanchez-Eppler (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 15:12

I believe the things I was quoted as saying in this article. But I also want to be clearer than may be evident in these quotations, about my view of the seriousness of Carleen Basler's infractions. The large segments of text from other scholars that Carleen Basler presented as her own do seem to appear mostly in segments of her work that provide historical context or sociological literature review. That sort of information is not trivial it is in fact the foundation of all scholarly work. If your foundation is fraudulent you cannot build something good atop it. I do think that we as an institution have things about mentoring to learn from this experience, but it is also crucial to affirm at this juncture the importance of honesty and integrity to all intellectual and educational projects.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 15:30

Yes, plagiarism is bad. It's inherently humiliating. Why make it any more of a difficult experience by publishing in excruciating detail what this woman is going through? All that was necessary was a short announcement including Professor Basler's statement. In her statement she asked for her privacy to be respected. This may be a well-written article, but it is intrusive, unnecessary, and insensitive.

'10er (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/01/2012 - 03:45

This is journalism. Sorry if you don't like the story - but this is far too huge an issue to be swept under the rug just because you feel bad for Basler. If anything, the article doesn't delve deeply enough. The world isn't made up of unicorns and rainbows, btw.

confused, clarify? (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 16:01

Professor Sanchez-Eppler, I don't understand your comment and clarifying would be helpful. What needs to be learned about mentoring from this case? It seems like there is nothing really that important to learn, because she just frauded Yale and Amherst. That is it. Would mentoring in this case mean she comes to you and says "I plagiarized most of my dissertation and most of my published article" and somehow the faculty mentor would resolve that? Why use this case for a springboard, where Basler's behavior is so off the charts and just disgraceful, rather than a case where a person doesn't get tenure or barely gets tenure because of a lack of publications? This case is of a disgraced professor who, despite this article's attempt to make things better and sunnier (mostly through your comments), frauded the college and lied in her statement to the paper (we can all agree it was intentional. A bunch of us students have googled her article sentences). Saying nice things about her only raises suspicions of trying to get someone off the hook for egregious professional crimes.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 16:56

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Amherst students feel entitled enough to say such cold and compassionless things about their professors. She's not "off the hook," dude. She resigned, and her professional career in higher ed is probably over. I also seriously doubt that anyone calling her a "disgrace" has had her in class. In fact, I'd bet that most of the people spewing these judgments have never had her in class. So why don't you all just keep the burn book comments to yourselves -- this isn't Amherst confessional, she's going through enough and doesn't need to deal with adolescent cyber-bullying on top of everything. I've had her in class, I'm sad to learn about this, but I still value her as a prof and am happy to have had the opportunity to learn from her.

'14 (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 17:59

In response to the commenter above me: I've not had a class with Basler, but I do think that situations like this call for a lot of compassion, which this article unfortunately lacks. Does the article's length of serve any purpose other than to parade Basler? The crucial message is that she has resigned due to plagiarism that administrators detected in the tenure review process. This article should have ended after the second paragraph. Yes, people will naturally be curious for more details (as I admittedly was), but no one needs to know every detail of the story. I'm ashamed that The Student treated this news with such a lack of professionalism and more importantly, a lack of sensitivity.

Bob (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 18:11

The Amherst Student did an excellent job reporting this story. It is very fair to all involved and well written. Kudos to the staff of The Amherst Student!

'08 (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 22:34

Have we really devolved into a conversation criticizing the writing prowess of the 20 year-old author of this article?? No wonder Karen Sanchez-Eppler was so eager to make this into a larger issue of insecurity and fear of criticism!

The fact is that, for anyone who knew Prof. Basler, there is a HUGE amount of cognitive dissonance to work through right now. I am doing so myself and so are a lot of students and alumni. For those of you who are satisfied to either write it off as an accident or blast her as a pure fraud, that's fine. The rest of us have a lot of thinking to do and complex articles like this certainly don't hurt.

Anne (not verified) says:
Thu, 09/27/2012 - 12:07

Article like this one certainly do hurt. For the most part, people will move on. Yes, it's shocking, and yes, it's a disappointment. But the most important processing should happen in the privacy of our own thoughts independent of the juicy details of the story. In the end we all have our lives to live, and Basler deserves to live her life as well. We'll all find peace sooner if some people relinquish their apparent need to know every plot turn, etc. And guess what? We can speculate to no end about why she plagiarized, but what each of us come up with will be our own version of the story. The only thing we can do agree on is that she shouldn't have plagiarized and that we want to move past this, which doesn't mean indulging our need to dwell obsessively on the whys, the hows, and our own judgmental feelings.

'11 (not verified) says:
Thu, 09/27/2012 - 16:46

All of this controversy aside, I am impressed by the rise in quality at the Student. Keep up the good work.

-08 (not verified) says:
Thu, 09/27/2012 - 21:44

I was at the assembly where the picture of her was taken. It wasn't very good. It was something about her knowing what jail was like because she knows hispanics... does anyone remember this? Not the best senior assembly speech really.

Nice article though.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Fri, 09/28/2012 - 10:21

I disagree. I thought that the speech was great. Maybe it would have helped if you had listened to everything that she said, rather than focusing on one aspect of the speech and portraying it inaccurately.

Phil Kay (not verified) says:
Fri, 09/28/2012 - 15:40

With the following two exceptions, as an outsider I found the content, presentation and online discussion of this article to reflect extremely well on Amherst as a community and institution (including its student paper):

Whatever the broader facts here, the writer is a bit careless and insensitive in her use of the past tense. Basler's work as an Amherst professor may be behind her, but she is "human" and clearly continues to be "well-respected" in some quarters. She's not dead, for God's sake. Even a sentence like "Basler was not only interested in students’ academics, but she was also very invested in student life" ought to be prefaced with something like, "During her x years at Amherst".

This isn't nitpicking and it doesn't only concern future journalists. I recently sat in on a series of emergency consultations with a gravely ill 22-year-old cancer patient who has a 50% chance of survival. The resident-in-training looked at his chart and began his interview with "So before this happened I see you were a college student. What were you studying?" When the world-class oncologist walked into the room, his first words were, "What year are you in? What's your major?"

My second caveat is the number of anonymous comments. Internet and academic conventions aside, there's something vaguely disreputable about being unwilling to stand behind your opinions in a public forum.

Tenured Faculty... (not verified) says:
Fri, 09/28/2012 - 20:48

I have to say as a tenured African American faculty member at a flagship state university in the Northeast who has written one scholarly monograph, one textbook, and 12 peer-reviewed articles, I find this hand wringing foolish and incredibly insulting to minority faculty. This woman cheated period. Why? Because, she was too lazy to do her job. Have I had tons of articles rejected? Of course. Have I had book manuscripts rejected? Yes. Did I feel frustrated about my writing everyday of my academic career? Of course. Did I decide to use another scholar's work and fail to cite them properly? Hell no.

Carlos (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/01/2012 - 13:55

To whom does the "them" in your penultimate sentence refer?

Dantes (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/01/2012 - 11:06

A "discipline" which has long outlived any usefulness it may have once had, and should be relegated to the dustbin of history.

If there is any department in a university where cogent writing ability is absolutely not necessary, it is in sociology. Pick up a so- called sociology textbook and try to wade through the turgid, pedantic writing. It's really kind of hilarious, in a pathetic sort of way, that someone would feel so inadequate as to their ability to write drivel for a living would resort to plagiarism.

Jonathan R. Silber (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/01/2012 - 12:30

You hit the nail on the head, Dantes.

For a professor of sociology to be inept at writing
in the style of academia--pretentious, impenetrable,
jargon-laden, and repulsive--is akin to an artist
being unable to stay within the lines of a paint-
by-numbers piece.

Get a load of the description of the masterpiece
Professor Sánchez-Eppler has herself produced,
for sale at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/
Touching-Liberty-Abolition-Feminism-Politics/dp/
0520212347): "Touching Liberty: Abolition, Feminism,
and the Politics of the Body."

Read that description of the book,
if you can stomach it: what a crock of pretentious bs!

It's productions like this that make average, normal
Americans--many without any college--contemptuous
of professors, and suspicious that the "life of the mind"--
that is, the life of ninety-five percent of academics--
amounts to little or nothing useful or important or engaging.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/01/2012 - 11:26

every faculty member of every college and university should be held to the same basic standard of academic integrity: no plagiarism whatsoever. It may well happen that even the most scrupulous scholar makes a mistake in a citation, or even misreads a source (boy, do I remember that from cite-checking law review articles!), no one should ever try to just paraphrase a source, or worse, just copy without attribution. Worst case, you write your own short summary and footnote to the source and say that the discussion in that source is particularly apt and that you have relied upon it heavily.

bandit (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/01/2012 - 11:50

I unintentionally failed

You mean forgot? Or something else?

Countrylawer (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/01/2012 - 12:02

I'm neither an Amherst student or graduate, but I have studied abroad at non-English-speaking institutions and have done academic work there in their language, including the writing and presentation/defense of papers. Somehow I managed not to lift whole chunks of others' work without attribution (judging by the grades I received I didn't do too shabbily, either, but 27 years later that's sort of irrelevant). Why in God's name should anyone who got into and graduated from Yale feel insecure about anything academic? I don't care how much you cheat, no one gets a Ph.D. from Yale who's unable to do the heavy lifting. So why did she do it? I'm not having any of that "Mexican-American background" business, either proffered as a defense or even on its own terms. "Basler" isn't very Iberian as a name, is it? Assuming that's not her married name, it sounds much more likely that her origins are German or Swiss, by way of Mexico; cultural DNA runs pretty deep to, as I can observe daily from a buddy of mine whose grandfather was a machine-gunner for the Kaiser. Ultimately a character flaw is just and only that: a character flaw. Punish, commiserate with her, and move on.

Mike Gebert (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/01/2012 - 12:13

She's set back the cause of conceptualizing white identity by decades! And I had such hopes for reading a really good piece about conceptualizing white identity. Now the field will be dominated by second tier conceptualizers of white identity who fail to grasp the degree of nuance a Yale-trained professor could bring to the subject of conceptualizing white identity. How will we keep up with the Chinese when it comes to conceptualizing white identity if we're not devoting our best minds to the job? Mr. President, we cannot allow a conceptualizing white identity gap!

William Tucker, '64 (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/01/2012 - 12:23

"White identity?" Boy am I glad I stopped contributing years ago. Glad my kids didn't go there, too.

White guy with ... (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/01/2012 - 13:04

So a woman teaching BS courses was BSing about the BS her "scholarly works" contain? How will radical left wing Amherst College ever survive?

DaveA (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/01/2012 - 13:04

Wouldn't this have rang an alarm bell? ""She was there to learn from us as much as we would learn from her; that’s what she told us."

PC (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/01/2012 - 14:10

As a White Hispanic with a Surname That is Not Spanish and An Ivy League Degree, like Ms. Basler, I was extremely offended by your hurtful comments Mike Gebert. And I chuckled quietly to myself.

Philosophy Prof (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/01/2012 - 21:34

Oh please, you puritans and simpletons. Don't you see the travesty in this? If we were all judged on our own miss givings then what?

It's clear that Prof Basler contributed more to the college and the community than what can be measured by Google searches.

state the obvious (not verified) says:
Tue, 10/02/2012 - 06:32

If she plagiarized her dissertation, then she was at the college under fraudulent circumstances. That does not go away because she did a good job with some students. She scammed them, her colleagues, Yale University, Amherst College, and that scam allowed her to reap the benefits of a really nice job. Years of sabbatical leave, a very high salary, retirement benefits, research money, office space, and the prestige of working at an elite institution.

The Google searches invalidate everything. They show that she was a fraud from the very beginning and was granted her PhD under false circumstances. She then published someone else's work and called it her own. Would you defend that as less important than her connection with students?

Also, you have to wonder what she was teaching students if she had done so little work in research and writing. Was it accurate information? I'd guess no.

balance (not verified) says:
Tue, 10/02/2012 - 08:44

"It's clear that Prof Basler contributed more to the college and the community than what can be measured by Google searches."

--- Yes, of course. She's a complete person, with value and worth that extends beyond her scholarship. But none of that is being judged in this situation. What is at issue is her scholarly work which, unfortunately, is plagiarized.

Amherst and Yale are judging the action, not the person. Good people make crappy decisions all the time. Doesn't change the fact that crappy decisions have consequences.