Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Supachai’s Lies – The Karma of Dishonesty

Below are materials I prepared for lessons when I encountered massive plagiarism in the English Program that I used to teach at.  (Of 30 students in one class, I had 3 original papers*, and the rest were copies of varying degrees of fidelity to the originals.  With some, you could see tell who copied from whom because the mistakes accumulated through successive flawed iterations.  The other couple of writing classes were the same.)

I look back at it now and laugh.  It's written at a 9.2 grade level, but that’s because I was told those English Program kids were "really, really good at English" when I started.  It could easily be modified to be at a simpler grade level.  From my experience, M3 needs about a 3rd – 4th grade reading level.  Good M6 students can handle between a 5th – 8th grade level, depending on their English proficiency.

  Anyway, I had designed this to be a week or two's lessons for these kids.  The first article is about Supachai Lorowakarn, the second about a teacher at an Islamic university (I was trying to be multicultural; I was a silly farang that didn't realize that only Thai culture matters); and the last is from a code of conduct at a Buddhist university in the States.  I think that many of those news articles are now blocked behind pay-walls.  I still think these materials would be good for a number of topics: academic honesty, basic morality, and reading comprehension.

 Looking back, I sometimes laugh at all the excuses I got from the adminstrators – they misbehaved because I was a new teacher, or that it was the beginning of the year, that they blatantly plagiarized because they didn't understand the rules of academic honesty, etc, etc.  The administrators, however, were never willing to clarify the rules to the kids, nor enforce any form of accountability.  The worst that could happen, even if a student skips every class all term and plagiarizes every assignment, is that they get a 1.0 for a grade.  Nobody will be accountable, except the foreigner.  

*This doesn’t include 2 students that I could tell were always honest and did their own work.  Of all the other students, there were, literally, 3 originals and the rest were copies.


Supachai’s Lies – The Karma of Dishonesty

Supachai Lorlowakarn was a successful business man in an international chemical company.  He earned a Master’s degree in biology that helped him get hired with the company.  He started out doing research, but soon became a manager in the company.  In the early 1990’s, he was making more money than most of his fellow Thai citizens ever would, and company officials predicted that he would become the chief executive of the company by the time he was 50 years old.   However, he saw that the rest of Thailand was not doing as well as he was, so he left the company and chose to work for the Thai government. 

Supachai went to work for the National Science and Technology and Development Agency because he wanted to see Thailand develop an economy based on creating knowledge instead of selling commodities like rice or rubber.  He eventually became the director for Thailand’s National Innovation Agency (NIA).  He also began studying for a PhD.  Supachai was looked up to by many people, and was highly respected.

Everything changed for Supachai when he chose to be dishonest.  There was an agricultural study being done in part by a United Nations agency, and in part by his agency.  Instead of doing his own research, Supachai used this study as his final report to earn his doctoral degree.  The person who actually wrote the study, Mr. Wyn Ellis objected to this and filed a complaint.

Instead of acknowledging that he was wrong, Supachai claimed that Mr. Ellis was only a translator.  He also filed civil and criminal complaints against Mr. Ellis for defamation (saying false things that hurt his reputation.)  He demanded 300,000 baht for defamation in the civil complaint, and the criminal complaint could have put Mr. Ellis in prison.  To help his case, Supachai also changed the original contract between NIA and Mr. Ellis.  He changed it to state that Mr. Ellis was only an assistant to NIA.  This would have helped his court case against Mr. Ellis if the court believed him.

The court was not fooled by Supachai.  The court dismissed every case that Supachai filed against Mr. Ellis, although it took over four years to do so because he filed so many.  Then the court did something unusual – it decided that Supachai’s behavior was so bad that he needed to be investigated. 

During this time, Supachai was also investigated by Chulalongkorn University.  Officials at the university determined that he had stolen 80% of his PhD thesis and revoked his PhD.   The court also punished Supachai for his bad behavior.  He was convicted of criminal forgery.  He was given 6 months probation and a 6,000 baht fine for lying to the court.  After all of his misdeeds came to light, he also lost his job with NIA.

If Supachai had admitted his mistake when it was first discovered, the consequences would have been much less severe.  (Of course, it would have been best if he had not cheated to begin with.)  He probably would have had to do a new PhD thesis, and would have been reprimanded by the University.  He would have had a much more difficult time finding professors to assist him, but he could have eventually earned his PhD honestly.

Instead, he made matters even worse by trying to hide one lie with another.  Now, he has lost his PhD, and it is unlikely that any university will ever allow him to enroll to earn it honestly.  He is also a convicted criminal.  If he is ever in court again, an attorney can make him tell the court about how he lied in this case.  It is unlikely that any judge or jury will ever believe him again.  Also, companies now do more extensive background checks when hiring workers.  Because of his crimes, he will probably never be able to get a job like the one he used to have with the chemical company.  His name is ruined. 

While writing this article, the author found one article from 2007 praising him for his good work at NIA.  Every other article, of about 12 that were read while researching, talked about his lying and cheating.  It is doubtful that anyone important will ever trust him again.  For many years to come, anyone who looks up Supachai on the internet will only learn that he is dishonorable – a liar and a cheater.

Supachai hurt many more people than just himself and Mr. Ellis.  His lies have left a stain that makes everyone he touched look dirty.   While researching this article, the author read much criticism of Chulalongkorn University from people who work in higher education.  So, Supachai’s dishonesty has dishonored the entire university and the name of King Rama V.  However, his stain does not end there.

Part of the reason Supachai was criminally convicted is because he abused the court by filing false lawsuits and lying to the court.  While this kind of abuse happens all over the world, it harms a developing economy like Thailand much more than a fully industrialized economy.  The way that Supachai used the Thai justice system is now the subject of at least one important university research journal in the United States.  His misbehavior will cause foreigners to believe that the Thai justice system is not fair to foreigners for years to come.  The consequences of his lies will harm people who have never even heard of Supachai.

Some people and businesses will avoid Thailand for years because of his lies.  This means that some businesses will choose to open new factories in other developing nations instead of Thailand, and some travelers will choose to visit other nations.  Thai people who studied hard in school will have fewer job opportunities because businesses will look for other places to open.  Restaurant owners will have fewer customers because travelers will look for other places to visit.  When one considers what Supachai has done for Thailand, he has caused much more harm from his lies than he can ever repair.  His dishonesty will harm Thailand for years.


HEC blacklists Islamic University teacher for plagiarism

Updated Jul 07, 2013 03:36am
ISLAMABAD, July 6: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has blacklisted a faculty member of the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) for plagiarism.
The decision was taken after the IIUI did not respond to a number of reminders sent to it by the commission to take action against the teacher. His name has also been mentioned in the website of the HEC.
According to documents available with Dawn, on December 11, 2012, Zia Batool, the director general quality assurance at the HEC, sent a letter to the IIUI president, stating that Daniel J. Costello, a representative of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Japan, had complained to the commission that Assistant Professor Mohammad Sher had committed level one (severe) plagiarism in their publication services and products board (PSPB) operation manual.
Ms Batool requested the university to take up the case as per policy and investigate the matter within 90 days.
An official of the HEC requesting not to be named said the IEEE had lodged the complaint in September 2012 seeking action against Dr Sher for publishing a plagiarised research paper “Application of error control coding” in their journal on October 6, 1998.
“The IEEE also sent us the soft copy of the research paper and we checked it through Turnitin (plagiarism detection software) and found that there was a level I (severe) plagiarism. The research paper was plagiarised from different papers of the IEEE.”
It is worth mentioning that Dr Sher, who was given the best university teacher award by the HEC in 2008, was also caught for plagiarism in 2011. However, at that time, Dr Sher apologised to the HEC in writing before action could be taken against him.
He maintained that he never used the thesis in question.
An official of the university said a meeting of the board of governors of the university was already scheduled for July 6 in which its members - former ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman, former minister Samina Khalid Ghurki and Justice Shahzado Shaikh of the Federal Shariat Court - were likely to participate.
“We have decided to inform them about the issue to discuss it because at the moment admissions are under process at the university and involvement of a faculty member in plagiarism will affect the reputation of the institution,” he said.
Dr Sher got promotion as a professor because of the research paper which turned out to be plagiarised and according to rules his promotion can be withdrawn, he said.
An official of the HEC on the condition of anonymity said as per standard operating procedure (SOP), the university was informed to constitute an inquiry committee and submit a report to the HEC within three months. The director general HEC sent a letter to the university and later a letter was also sent to the IIUI by the HEC chairperson but the university did not take any action.
“As a last option, we have decided to blacklist the faculty member and have placed his name in the website of the university. Now it’s up to the university management whether it takes action against the teacher or not,” he said.
In reply to a question, the official said: “The HEC can only stop funds to the university. In 2007, we received a similar complaint from foreigner scholars against six faculty members of the University of Punjab. But the university did not take any action against them so we stopped its funding due to which the whole university staff and students suffered. Now we have decided not to stop fund to any university,” he said.
Munir Ahmed, the HEC focal person for all universities regarding plagiarism, while talking to Dawn confirmed that Dr Sher had been blacklisted.
An official of the HEC said so far nine faculty members of different universities have been blacklisted. They include Dr Jalaluddin Noori, dean Islamic Studies, University of Karachi; Aijaz Ahmed Gujjar, Islamia University, Bahawalpur; Shabnum Sharif, a graduate of AJK University; Dr Abdul Sattar Almani, Mohammad Aslam Kamboh and Mohammad Aslam Chaudhry of the University of Sindh, Jamshoro.
“Dr Kamaluddin Ahmed of LUMS, Lahore, and Suleman Memon of MUET, Jamshoro, were also blacklisted but they moved the courts against the decision and their cases are under trial,” he said.
When contacted, Prof Dr Mohammad Sher said the HEC had blacklisted him because the IIUI failed to complete its inquiry into the matter.
“It is a routine practice with the HEC and I am sure that during the inquiry I will be declared innocent. I will not approach the court because the inquiry will prove that there was nothing wrong with my thesis,” he added.
Rector IIUI Prof Dr Mohammad Masoom Yasinzai while talking to Dawn said he had instructed the vice-president of the university to set up a committee to probe the matter and submit the report to the HEC but the matter was delayed.
“Now I will personally take up the issue. I will have to see if there was a minor or major plagiarism and then a final decision will be taken.” He said there were different penalties/punishments for different categories of plagiarism.

This is a code of conduct from a Buddhist University in the United States.  Because Thailand is mostly Buddhist, the ethical teachings apply here as well.  Please read it and be prepared to answer questions in the next class.

Code of Conduct
Buddha Dharma University requires students to embrace, at minimum, the Five Precepts:

·   The First Precept: I vow to support all living creatures, and refrain from killing.
·   The Second Precept: I vow to respect the property of others, and refrain from stealing.
·   The Third Precept: I vow to regard all beings with respect and dignity, and refrain from objectifying others.
·   The Fourth Precept: I vow to be truthful, and refrain from lying.
·   The Fifth Precept: I vow to maintain a clear mind and refrain from harming myself or others with intoxication.

Occasionally missing homework is forgivable. However, meeting deadlines indicates a mastery of self, as well as a respect for the professor's time.  Submit homework on time. Frequent lateness (or missing assignments) may result in lower grades, at the discretion of the professor.

Plagiarism is taking, without permission or attribution, material found in books, magazines, newspapers, databases, movies, recordings -- or copying and quoting information found on the Internet.

Plagiarism violates the 2nd and 4th Precepts. It is both stealing and lying. And it will not be tolerated at Buddha Dharma University.

Skillful Attitudes and Actions Include:

  • Timeliness
  • Commitment
  • Participation
  • Respect
  • Communication
  • Flexibility
  • Honesty
  • Compassion

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