This morning Árpád W. Tóta, the very popular blogger, even before the verdict of the fact finding committee dealing with the plagiarism case of President Pál Schmitt was released, wrote that “the report of the committee will reveal how destructive is the force of that will that made Pál Schmitt president and kept him in that position.” Now we know. The “destructive force of that will,” as Tóta calls Viktor Orbán, is enormous.
Tóta also rightly points out that the Regime of National Cooperation expects the academic community, especially social scientists, to support its political goals. If these people deviate at all, punishment might be meted out. So, it’s no wonder that it took so long for the five-member committee to come up with its findings. They were in a quandary. They were most likely expecting some sign from above by way of guidance, but apparently it didn’t come.
First, let’s look at the profiles of the members of this investigating committee. The chairman of the committee was the dean of the faculty of Physical Education and Sports of Semmelweis University, Miklós Tóth. This is the same man who immediately after HVG came out with the story about Schmitt’s possible plagiarism announced that “we have no reason to suppose that the committee didn’t decide properly when it approved the dissertation of Pál Schmitt in 1992.” He added that the quality of the dissertation was in no way inferior to others written at the time. He certainly didn’t have to think very hard during deliberations.
In addition, Tóth has been a member of the Hungarian Olympic Committee since 2010, and one month after the news about Schmitt’s plagiarism case broke he became one of the vice presidents of the HOC (MOB in Hungarian). The other new vice president was Tamás Deutsch, a Fidesz member of the European Parliament. Zsolt Borkai took over the presidency from Schmitt in 2010. Borkai is a Fidesz parliamentary member and mayor of Győr. In brief, the Olympic Committee is a Fidesz stronghold.
Among the members of the investigating committee was Károly Rácz, head of the university’s graduate school. He is, like Tóth, an M.D. who finished medical school at Semmelweis, but he received his Ph.D. from McGill University in Montreal. He returned to Hungary in the 1980s. He has published widely in foreign medical journals, and most of his publications are in English. He seems to be a stickler for quality, but he added that “the committee must take into consideration the requirements of those days.” Moreover, he wrote that it is the duty of the readers of the dissertation to uncover plagiarism, but naturally they cannot be familiar with all the material.
Another member, János Gombocz, has been teaching at Semmelweis ever since 1968. He has a Ph.D. in education. His field of interest is the theory of education and sport pedagogy. He was until 2011 a member of a foundation that functioned under the Olympic Committee. A closely knit circle. He is also a member of the editorial board of “the conservative periodical, Mester és Tanítványa (Master and his student)” whose editor-in-chief is Rózsa Hoffmann (KDNP), undersecretary in charge of education in the Orbán government. Another connection with government circles.
Then there was Etele Kovács who received a doctorate in 1985 from Schmitt’s alma mater. And finally, Ákos Fluck, a lawyer, who apparently attached a separate brief. We don’t yet know its contents.
It is hard to imagine, but the full report is 1,157 pages long. Thankfully a three-page summary is available.
The complete version was sent to the Ministry of National Resources, the super-ministry that Viktor Orbán created that took over, among other things, education. It seems that this monster of a report will end up on Rózsa Hoffmann’s desk. We know that Hoffmann has strong views on plagiarism: it is cheating and it is unacceptable. It is hard to fathom what she will say now that the investigative committee ascertained that 26 pages of the dissertation were copied word for word from Klaus Heinemann’s “The Economics of Sport: The Institution of Modern Sport as an Area of Economic Competition,” Sport, the Third Millennium (Vancouver, 1991). Moreover, after listing all the diagrams and tables copied out of Nikolay Gueorguiev’s Analyse de Programme Olympique (des Jeux de l’Olympiade (Lausanne: Maison Olympique, 1987) the report rather vaguely states that “approximately 180 pages show partial agreement with Gueorguiev’s work.” The only additional material in these 180 pages reflect Schmitt’s–or whoever wrote the dissertation–attempt to include information about the Olympics held in Seoul in 1988.
So, although they don’t use the word plagiarism (plágium, plagizál) there is no question that Schmitt’s dissertation is not his own work. Naturally there are other problems as well. There are no quotation marks to indicate borrowed material and therefore there are no footnotes. The bibliography lists 21 works but strangely enough their titles are not given in the original languages but in Hungarian translation.
The report mentions other oddities, although “they cannot be considered irregularities.” One of these “oddities” is that the university and Schmitt together managed to push through a doctoral dissertation from A to Z in one month. Quite a feat. He showed up one day and announced that he would like to receive a doctorate and behold a month later it was all done.
Another “oddity” is that there is no sign in Schmitt’s academic record of the requisite comprehensive examination (in Hungarian, szigorlat). Also missing is a thesis (in Hungarian, vázlat) in which the candidate outlines the skeleton of his or her dissertation. And there is no record of written opinions of the readers (opponensek in Hungarian).
After all these “oddities” comes the conclusion: “This procedure–although with the above imperfections–met the practice of the still independent University of Physical Education. The work depends on an unusual amount of verbatim translation, a fact that was not discovered in time although its discovery should have been part of the procedure. The University of Physical Education made a mistake when it didn’t discover the identity of texts and thus the author may have believed that his dissertation met the requirements.”
So, Schmitt was the innocent victim of his readers’ ignorance. An incredible conclusion.
After reading the summary I came to the conclusion that Pál Schmitt is not the only one who should resign–or at the very least apologize.The administrators of the University of Physical Education who assisted him in getting an undeserved doctorate, and one suspects that there were many who assisted in this ruse, should also step down. In addition, the three readers should be retired from teaching, and not just because they didn’t identify the plagiarized texts. The university administration and readers are culpable because the dissertation didn’t meet the requirements as stated in the 1985 Act I. This law specifies that the granting of a doctorate requires the candidate to have a prior university degree, pass a comprehensive exam, have a command of a foreign language at an intermediate level, and employ standard academic methods. That certainly includes footnotes and quotation marks. Moreover, it also states that if it is discovered that the dissertation was written by someone other than the candidate or that the candidate inappropriately used the work of others, the doctoral title will be withdrawn.
Oh well, I guess this was a communist law. As Hungarian ethics gets rewritten with a Christian, nationalist tilt, cheating remains an accepted way of life.