Mary Burke’s plagiarism issues are more than just a small speed bump while she seeks the governor’s office. These are colossal errors the Democratic gubernatorial candidate must overcome.
Copying someone else’s work without giving them credit has tremendous implications for any individual. Here at University of Wisconsin, if a professor takes a plagiarism accusation to the Dean of Students Lori Berquam, the punishment can be as heavy as expulsion or suspension. The UW College Republicans wrote a column last week outlining the consequences of copying someone else’s work in a corporate setting.
Mary Burke has cut ties with the consultant responsible amid the controversy. This can be interpreted in one of two ways. The first is that Burke truly was oblivious to the fact that portions of her jobs plan were copied and that this consultant was entirely responsible, or that Burke needed a scapegoat for her errors.
To give Burke the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume the first. This really does nothing for Burke because, one, it means that she distributed work which was not her own and two, she was not involved in her own jobs plan.
The plagiarism in this case could be blamed on whomever constructed the jobs plan. If Burke is saying that she definitively did not plagiarize and that it was the consultant’s fault, then in theory she is not responsible for the plagiarism.
However, this is not true. Think of this as a group project. Burke is that person in the group project who creates the cover page, places their name at the top and hands it in to the professor, even though she didn’t do any of the hard work. Every student who has ever been in a group project knows this person. If Burke wants to blame that consultant, then she is that person who allows others to do their work for her. Is that something you want from a governor? An individual who is not willing to put forth the proper effort to achieve her goals?
Still assuming that Burke was oblivious to the copied text, this means she based a significant portion of her campaign off a plan she did not have a role in constructing. This seems ridiculous considering the amount of power an economic and jobs plan has on a campaign, with many individuals deciding their vote on the issue.
Burke also heavily criticized Gov. Scott Walker’s plans and continually claimed that her economic plans were based on her experience working for Trek Bicycle and as an entrepreneur. This clearly is not true considering parts of the plan were taken from other people’s work.
Aside from Burke’s jobs plan, there are at least two other texts containing direct excerpts from other documents, a plan for rural areas and another for the state’s veterans. Knowing this, either Burke was completely oblivious and not participating to a very large degree in her own campaign, or it means she flat out copied others intentionally. Neither paints a very good image for the future of our state.
The scandal surrounding Burke’s economic plan can be interpreted as the slacker in the group project or as a cheater. With the plagiarism revelations, Burke was given the ability to revamp and completely redo her economic plan. This would have proven that she was not the slacker or the cheater. But Burke is standing by the plan, still citing the plans that were partly copied. She is not taking advantage of this chance to make things right.
Amy Hasenberg ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science with a certificate in African Studies.