The Hungarian president plagiarized but it was the university’s fault

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.

Schmitt es plagium

It was in front of me and of course I signed it

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.

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Petofi
Guest

I would like to have the Bishop of Hungary pass judgement on the plagiarizing case…Now, that would be interesting!

Francois Borginon
Guest

Shame on President Schmitt and on Hungary. Schmitt will go down in history as a laughingstock; today’s Hungary is a big dumb joke that isn’t funny.

Petofi
Guest

It’s all Orban.
He can twist the laws and break all the rules of decency.
And the Catholic Church has yet to say word 1 about morals
and ethics in the Hungary of today.
How long will the Hungarian people stand for this?

steve
Guest

It is a pity.
Every Hungarian has been stained by the recent events.
Unexpectedly too few Hungarians are protesting.
Are we as unfortunate soon as the Syrians?

steve
Guest

Attention, the Typepad site is erratic.
Some postings will be automatically deleted.

An
Guest

Welcome to the Country of No Consequences (if you are on the right side, of course). Shameful.

Member

I van only hope that every single person who agrees that Schmitt should keep his degree because he is an innocent bystander will have root canal done by a dentist who does not have qualification. I would wish that they should live in a country where the President cheated for his degree, but Hungary already has that.

erwin
Guest

The members of the special panel are quaking in their boots

riviera1
Guest

Well, if Hungary hadn’t already been known as the country of whores and cheaters…
Let us now await the arrival of:
–Mugabe
–Nigerian scammers
–Sudanese ‘freedom-fighters’ (our brothers)
–Ethiopian pirates
–Russian KGB/Mafia types (oh, they’re already here)
And, no doubt, Smiley Schmitt will be out to welcome them all…

riviera1
Guest

Oh how the Felchutian rabble–eating their
dog meat and quaffing their red–are enjoying this now!

Wondercat
Guest

All you Hungarians going abroad to work within the European Union — maybe it’s time not to accept a Hungarian degree at face value; maybe it’s time to require that each and every one of you define and defend the validity of the credentials that you cut-and-pasted together and paid your degree-granters for. (No, not “that you earned”.) Hey presto! The emigration problem solved.
You have to applaud VO — with the ScHmITt committee decision perhaps the smaller problem is not dealt with perfectly, but the larger one is dramatically addressed.

Kingfisher
Guest

Hungarian society is being shown in the most brazen way imaginable that the political interests of the elite take priority over morality. It is the lack of disguise that I think is so damaging because it is destroying the moral fabric of society bit by bit. It creates the perception that right or wrong are not fixed. Why shouldn’t I cheat when I see the elite cheat?
Interestingly, the lawyer submitted his own opinion which needless to say was not attached but reading between the lines (and NOL claims it has been tipped off as to the contents) it seems he took a dimmer view of Schmitt doctorate.
Incidentally, an interesting article on Index for those that read Hungarian (http://index.hu/belfold/2012/03/28/transparency/)

Törpefejű
Guest

Many aspects of this case do recall the world of the gouty apoplectic self-indulgence of the old Hungarian gentry – the belief that if you have a noble title an academic one is your automatic right (even if you spend your days slaughtering wild animals and enjoying le droit de seigneur with your female serfs). And it’s clear that FIDESZ would like nothing more than to set themselves up permanently, and their descendents as well, as local notables straight out of a Zsigmond Moricz story. But there’s something even more sinister at work here.
Namely, in a society based upon blood and breeding – the aim of both the respectable and the insane factions of the Hungarian Right – those who have the right bloodline are automatically in the moral right. And the senkihazi/idegenszivu etc. will automatically be in the wrong. Contrast the Schmitt case with the slander campaign against Agnes Heller – entirely based on her having the unforgivable temerity not to get murdered back in 1944.

Member

There is a thriving business on Khao san Road in Bangkok where they will print you a degree from any educational institute in the world- five bucks and the world is yours… After yesterday’s decision, I would put any degree *achieved* from a Hungarian University on the same level.
Yesterday was truly the saddest I’ve felt since I arrived in Hungary many moons ago to see how far the scum has captured every level of the state and indeed wider society.
Orban and and the assorted filth that follow in his wake can do whatever the hell they want and you know what?
Everybody just sits back and takes it.

Kingfisher
Guest

I don’t think Fidesz’s dislike of Heller has anything to do with her ethnic heritage. It is because she doesn’t support them and aligns herself with certain intellectual leftwards leaning European trends that Orbán appears allergic to. Orbán has no problem appointing a Jewish successor to Fellegi, or with Deutch Tamás.

enuff of fake PhDs
Guest

Re : Petofi “And the Catholic Church has yet to say word 1 about morals and ethics in the Hungary of today. ”
Exactly. V.O portrayed himself and his gov. as clean when in fact they are greedy, corrupt and lie to get to where they are. I guess the church is fine with it as long as they get their gov. funding!

Kingfisher
Guest

One thing that no one has commented on is that this report was published a day ahead of schedule. As a longterm Fidesz watcher, something like that tends to happen to distract from some other event. I’m not sure I’ve found that event. But there are claims flying around that Kövér is about to get his own security force that would be allowed to enter people’s houses and set up road blocks! This was being debated in parliament yesterday and not really been reported (but as an opposition watcher, I think it is possible that their claims are exaggerated too.) Any thoughts?

Vándorló
Guest

@Kingfisher: There was a story covering this yesterday: http://goo.gl/k8c9D So you could be right. Love the use of a new verb in the article “fideszesíteni” ‘to Fidesz-ize’.

Törpefejű
Guest

Re: Kingfisher – Actually, I had in mind the campaign of public slander from the semiliterate polluters of cyberspace, which was the entirely foreseen result of the governmental investigation into the Philosophy Institute. I’d agree that for the FIDESZ gentry, the muck of anti-Semitism is something they’re above handling themselves, but they really don’t need to.
FIDESZ is not identical to the insane Right, but is parasitically symbiotic with it. They use it for political wetwork in shoving all traces of Western liberalism out of the public sphere, but remain respectable enough to allow the mouth-foamers to believe they have autonomy. And, of course, once Jobbik starts winning parliamentary majorities, Big Vic will go running straight to the US embassy in hopes that he can win status as “our SOB”, like his predecessors Marcos or Noriega.

Leo
Guest

This shameful report cannot be explained by party bias. And not even by the moral corruption spreading in Hungary. What we see here, I believe, is naked fear.
These authors clearly do not believe their ridiculous story, neither do they expect us to believe it. But they knew that their careers would be destroyed just like that if they failed to discover Schmitt’s innocence.
Living in a free country it is difficult to criticize those who are not so lucky. Still, let us repeat and memorise the names of these freedom fighters: Miklós Tóth, Károly Rácz, János Gombocz, Etele Kovács and Ákos Fluck (I take my hat off for Fluck if he had indeed the courage to express reservations).

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest
So the disgusting foreigners and the wicked evil non Hungarians whom betray their home land have caught the president of the land with his ‘trousers round his ankles’. The fact that the institution which gave the President a ‘Doctorate’ was also caught in Flagro Delictante is neither here or there. ‘Two wrongs’ do not make a ‘right’. I can to some extent understand why University of Physical Education was so ready to grant him some form of doctorial degree. It would very beneficial if such a university could list an Olympian (and a multiple gold medallist to boot) as part of their outfit. Just think who you could gull into your outfit. The trick worked for 20 years! But…. As to universities, I have never been to one. I was once ordered to attend a special interview to see if I could be accepted as a ‘mature student’. That is a dfferent story Kingfisher, I do not think that the problem of the President were planned to coincide with the formation of a force that will become the new AVO. What is going on is I suspect that the Presidential problems are being used to cover the formation of this… Read more »
Kingfisher
Guest

I heard someone say yesterday “Well, look on the bright side, in these times of high unemployment at least the committee have saved six jobs!”
As Leo says, this is nothing to do with party bias. It reminds me of a Hungarian joke about a maffia competition. 3 maffias have to prove who is best and they gather at the North Pole. The task is who can get a camel quickest. The Sicilians start and eventually return with a camel on a sledge. Then the Russians have a go and turn up a bit quicker with the camel hanging from a helicopter. Finally it is the turn of the Ukrainian maffia. Ten minutes pass and they come back with a polar bear, streaming with blood. “What is THAT?” ask the judges. “I’m a camel, I’m a camel” screams the broken polar bear (for some reason, teve vagyok, teve vagyok, is funnier in Hungarian) The committee has been shown a broken polar bear (which will probably get me in Pseuds Corner in Private Eye, but hopefully you can see what I mean!)

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kingfisher: “But there are claims flying around that Kövér is about to get his own security force that would be allowed to enter people’s houses and set up road blocks! This was being debated in parliament yesterday”
I was planning to write about the proposed law on the workings of the parliament yesterday but then came Schmitt. I have the text of the proposed bill already and as soon as it is available I will go through some of the debate.

Kingfisher
Guest

@Eva, great! I’d appreciate someone sifting through it.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Törpefejű: “And, of course, once Jobbik starts winning parliamentary majorities, Big Vic will go running straight to the US embassy in hopes that he can win status as “our SOB”, like his predecessors Marcos or Noriega.”
I just wanted to say that this is a very dangerous game.

steve
Guest

Living in fear.
Keeping head low.
Budapest is becoming the old Palermo.
Don’t be indifferent.
Liberate Hungary from the crime syndicate.

steve
Guest

erratic internet.
is the site hacked?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Steve: “erratic internet. is the site hacked?”
As far as I can see, they are “improving” the site. Or at least in the last few days new features appeared on the platform. Every time any software company “improves” their service one ought to be nervous.

GW
Guest
There is a degree of cheating which is deeply built into and tolerated in the Hungarian educational system and would be considered appalling and punishable elsewhere. In the early 2000’s I witnessed the provision of “cheat sheets” by teachers (who are, after all, also under great pressure to have good test results), test takers sneaking in notes, students sharing answers, etc..) Of course, such behavior can be found elsewhere, but — above and beyond the childish nature of such an excuse — it appears in Hungary to have been elevated to a high art, with those who choose not to cooperate with the cheating system facing social ostracism (hence, perhaps, the behavior of this investigatory panel, which blames not the cheater but the examiners!) I just read the historian Kenez Peter’s memoir of his youth under the Arrow Cross and Communists and was fascinated to read how these cheating practices were standard then as well. (It was also interesting to read that it was the future “dissident” philosopher Feher Ferenc (who would have something of a prominent career abroad and was, incidentally, the 2nd husband of Agnes Heller) who interrogated Kenez (who was then a believing young communist) and kept… Read more »
Member

I was just thinking that Schmitt’s “degree” explains how some of Fidesz members get their degrees, that would also explain how uneducated are most of them in basic economics, history and in political science. I think we should all be more forgiving towards fidesz as it seems now that they are mainly made up of people who finished high school at best, and purchased a degree to enter the government. Of course there is nothing wrong with that as we learned, but the company who produced the paper the degree is printed on, surely should be hold responsible!

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