If Sen. Rand Paul were in school, he’d probably be expelled

FILE - In this Oct. 11, 2013, file photo, Sen. Rand Paul R-Ky. speaks during the Values Voter Summit, held by the Family Research Council Action in Washington. Paul in recent days has sought to dismiss criticism over similarities between his speeches and entries in Wikipedia, accusing “footnote police” and “hacks and haters” for unfairly criticizing him. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
Sen. Rand Paul (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

Schools don’t take plagiarizing lightly. Penalties depend on what, how much and how often “borrowing” has occurred, but  multiple instances of stealing material and using it without credit would likely lead to expulsion. Which brings us to Sen. Rand Paul.

Last week Paul gave a speech at Liberty University in Virginia  that lifted lines from a  Wikipedia  entry on a 1997 science fiction film called “Gattaca” during his discussion of how abortion and modern scientific advances could lead to the practice of eugenics. That alone would get him in trouble in school, assuming he got caught. Rachel Maddow reported on it, though there was nobody around to give him a detention.

Now, Buzzfeed.com has found more suspicious material. Parts of  a Rand-authored Washington Times op-ed  on mandatory minimum prison sentences turn out to be remarkably similar to an article written by Dan Stewart in The Week magazine. For example, Stewart wrote:

It’s the automatic imposition of a minimum number of years in prison for specific crimes — usually related to drugs. By design, mandatory sentencing laws take discretion away from prosecutors and judges so as to impose harsh sentences, regardless of circumstances.

And Paul wrote:

Mandatory-minimum sentences automatically impose a minimum number of years in prison for specific crimes — usually related to drugs. By design, mandatory-sentencing laws take discretion away from prosecutors and judges so as to impose harsh sentences, regardless of circumstances.

 

Paul used the above passage and others from Stewart’s article in testimony he gave in September to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Buzzfeed.com reported.  And some Rand speeches have some questionable material in them too, it says.

But if Paul were caught at Baylor University, where he attended as an undergraduate, it’s unclear what would happen. According to the school’s website, plagiarism is a violation of the school’s honor code:

 Plagiarism, that is, incorporating into one’s work offered for course credit passages taken either word for word or in substance from a work of another, unless the student credits the original author and identifies the original author’s work with quotation marks, footnotes, or another appropriate written explanation.

At Duke University, where Paul attended medical school, plagiarism leaves a student open for suspension or expulsion, according to its website – and that’s just for a single incident. Harvard University tossed out dozens of students during the last academic year for cheating on a take-home exam, with many papers have remarkably similar work.

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | November 6, 2013