Moral and political confusion

I decided to update three recent posts. On Saturday and Sunday I wrote about LMP’s decision not to begin negotiations with the “Together 2014” group. Yesterday I reported on the latest plagiarism case involving Zsolt Semjén, chairman of the Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) and deputy to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

The update is necessary because in the last two days there have been some interesting developments on both fronts. More and more information is becoming available on the plagiarism case of Zsolt Semjén. And the dissenters within LMP have not exactly been quiet.

Let’s start with LMP. As is evident from an interview in Népszabadság with Benedek Jávor, former LMP whip, even those delegates who voted for negotiations with “Together 2014” wanted to build in the right to blackball other parties or organizations that might plan to join Gordon Bajnai’s organization in the future. Even Jávor and his deputies, Gergely Karácsony and Tímea Szabó, most likely would have supported the idea of vetoing MSZP’s and DK’s admission. No wonder that Vera Lánczos wasn’t exactly enamored with the idea. In fact, she expressed her relief  on Galamus that the negotiations came to naught. I tend to agree with Lánczos. After all, what is the use of having an umbrella organization that leaves out the largest opposition party with 1.3 million supporters and the sympathizers  of DK who are most enthusiastic about forming a united opposition?

Jávor suggested, at least on Sunday, that the next elections could be won without MSZP. He for one didn’t want to join the socialists. For him even the person of Gordon Bajnai was problematic. Jávor’s cooperation with Bajnai seems to have extended only to the rebuilding of Hungarian democracy. From this particular interview I couldn’t find out what Bajnai’s sins were as far as Jávor and his friends were concerned, but his next interview with HVG made that somewhat clearer.

In this second interview on Monday Jávor objected strenuously to Bajnai’s economic ideas. He also expressed his intense dislike of Ferenc Gyurcsány. And most likely he wouldn’t be happy if Gábor Kuncze, former SZDSZ party chairman, joined the organization. So, if I read this interview right, Jávor and his friends want to have an exclusive relationship with “Together 2014.” The plan is really preposterous: to exclude all other parties once LMP is part of this new umbrella organization.

But that was only one message from the interview. Jávor criticized András Schiffer and his followers within LMP who want to build “a new formation based [solely] on Milla, Solidarity and other forces outside of parliament.” So, after all, he admits that he needs the other parties, but which ones if not the existing ones? I think LMP politicians are a confused lot.

The breakup of LMP is still not out of the question. The first step toward a possible dissolution took place today when eight LMP members of parliament out of a delegation of fifteen created a new “platform.”  “Platform” in Hungarian party jargon identifies a separate ideological group within a party. The socialists have several platforms representing different ideologies from left to right within the party. LMP never had platforms before. The name of the new LMP platform is “Dialogue for Hungary.”  Both Jávor and Schiffer claim that the party will remain intact, but Népszava already predicted that LMP’s breakup is inevitable.

As for Zsolt Semjén’s dissertation, it looks as if Péter Pázmány Catholic University will not investigate the plagiarism charge against its favorite son, the deeply religious Semjén. The conversion of doctoral degrees to Ph.D.’s was done by “a group of international experts” between 1997 and 1999 and the procedure was legal from the point of view of both the Church authorities and the Hungarian state.

However, ELTE might have a different opinion on Semjén’s senior paper, which was submitted without any mention of the fact that practically the entire paper had been turned in at another university for another degree. Tamás Lukács, a lawyer and a KDNP member of parliament, might think that “if someone uses himself as a source it is not plagiarism,” but in fact it is unacceptable at most institutions to submit the same paper to fulfill the requirements for more than one course. Unless the instructor grants permission.

In the sociology department of ELTE there were a few raised eyebrows, at least originally, about  Semjén’s senior paper. Nikosz Fokasz, the department’s current chairman, recalled that the first reader failed the paper because he maintained that the topic of the paper had little if anything to do with sociology. It was mostly about religion. But the department solved the problem by appointing another reader, Professor György Csepeli, who found the paper “excellent.”  According to Népszabadság, however, Csepeli’s “A” stood in contrast to the second reader’s “C”. Semjén is at least forthcoming. His dissertation and senior paper  are available online and today he even made his transcript public. He claims that the senior paper received a “B”.

Originally for kids
but I recommend to Hungarian professors as well

For me one of the most shocking statements on this subject came from the socialist István Hiller, former minister of education. Before he became a politician Hiller taught history at ELTE. He achieved the rank of associate professor. He speaks German, Italian, and English, and his knowledge of Latin and Greek is also excellent. He received the lecturer of the year award in 2001. And yet this man found the plagiarism case old hat. He quoted the Hungarian saying that only cabbage is good warmed up. The reference is naturally to the case of Pál Schmitt. He claims that all a candidate must demonstrate is that he has “original ideas.”  There is no such thing as “percentages of borrowing.”  According to him, “research is built on research, the new researchers add their own to the accumulated knowledge of the predecessors.”  In his opinion, Semjén’s doctoral dissertation unquestionably meets the necessary requirements. The senior paper is “a borderline case.” To decide he would have to study the texts.

Shame on István Hiller. For his sake I’m going to quote again Yale University’s definition of plagiarism: “the use of another’s work, words, or ideas without attribution” which includes “using a source’s language without quoting, using information from a source without attribution, and paraphrasing a source in a form that stays too close to the original.” If István Hiller is planning to return to academe I strongly recommend that he learns what plagiarism means. In a great hurry!

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Paul
Guest

Éva – unless I’m being thick, you mean two, not three.

Kingfisher
Guest

Jávor is right, in the sense that if Gyurcsány, Kuncze, Lendvai, Szekeres and the rest of the MSZP are part of Bajnai’s organisation, then Együtt 2014 is doomed. Együtt surely means the electorate, the MSZP and disenchanted FIDESZ voters, not the wretched parties themselves. The last thing Hungary needs is the return of Gyurcsány or the MSZP. It needs a new centre that at least attempts to disassociate itself from the “left”. Bajnai, to his credit, seems to understand this.

Member

I’m not convinced by your sugestion that Semjen is guilty of “plagiarism” by copying his own work. It might be “cheating”, but surely the point of plagiarism (even in the definition which you quote) is that the work copied is from someone else.

spectator
Guest
Kingfisher : Jávor is right, in the sense that if Gyurcsány, Kuncze, Lendvai, Szekeres and the rest of the MSZP are part of Bajnai’s organisation, then Együtt 2014 is doomed. Együtt surely means the electorate, the MSZP and disenchanted FIDESZ voters, not the wretched parties themselves. The last thing Hungary needs is the return of Gyurcsány or the MSZP. It needs a new centre that at least attempts to disassociate itself from the “left”. Bajnai, to his credit, seems to understand this. It would be a really great contribution from your part, if you named a few possible candidates, in order that such mere mortals as myself could have some reference points. So far I have collected a couple dozen names, but they’re disqualified right away – being experienced politicians – so, we maybe should go and recruit some kids from some schoolyard? If we are at it: how comes, that nobody seems to be bothered by the fact, that the prominent members of the ruling party are ‘experienced’ as well – alas, not that easy to recognize this feature just by listening them – not to mention the government, most of them are seasoned tribal warriors, a couple of… Read more »
Christopher Adam
Guest
Regardless of what István Hiller and many others in Hungary may like to think, any university professor in Canada (and, I am sure, in the US as well) would consider Semjén’s dissertation a textbook case of plagiarism. Moving words around a bit and searching for synonyms with which to disguise the work of another author and pass it off as one’s own is plagiarism pure and simple. Perhaps it’s not quite as simple as Mr. Schmitt’s large-scale ‘lifting’ of entire pages from other works, but it is still academic dishonesty at its worst. And then on top of that, passing off what is essentially the same paper in two different programs, in order to obtain two separate degrees, is academic fraud. My 18 year old students know this perfectly well, so frankly I don’t see why Mr. Hiller needs to twist himself into a pretzel in order to come to Mr. Semjén’s defence. But twisting themselves into pretzels on moral and ethical issues is what so many Hungarian politicians are so incredibly talented at…and the Hungarian Socialist Party, sure as hell, is no exception. And that’s why I once rather fancied the LMP, and why I am so disappointed to… Read more »
spectator
Guest

Recently I have had the dubious ‘pleasure’ to read parts/chapters of a couple of ‘scientific’ work of Hungarian notabilities, namely Jeszenszky and now Semjén.
Well, after this experience is not that strange anymore, how things are going over there.

To be honest, Semjén much more entertaining read.

After all, I think in his case isn’t really the level of plagiarism what disturbing, but rather the fact, that an allegedly religious, allegedly learned person is in prominent position, keep lecturing everyone on moral basis – getting by with clearly unfair methods, whatever the proper terminology is to name his acts.

The really mind blowing argument unquestionably was the ‘persecution of Christians’ in Hungary, – it something to keep in mind, indeed: this is the intellectual level in the parliament today.
Congratulations!

LwiiH
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
I’m seriously thinking of sending an open letter to István Hiller. I’m sure that I could do it via Galamus. I’m really, really outraged. It is time for Hungarian society to face that academic integrity simply doesn’t exist in Hungary. How can this country get out of morass without doing something about this?

I have to agree with you. This is clearly plagiarism + fraud. I would think that anyone that honestly earned a degree should be up in arms as this puts into question the value of any degree earned in Hungary. It’s no wonder that those with a degree that immigrate else where end up not being able to work in their profession. IIRC, you can’t issue a PhD without some accreditation. Doesn’t the Péter Pázmány Catholic University risk loosing their accreditation by not taking this case seriously?

Guest

London Calling!

Although Orban doesn’t allude to the integrity of his government with regard to the plague of plagiarism, – he is clear that the only saving of Europe is if it ‘gets religion’.

Orban claims the EU will collapse without Christianity:

“……To solve this crisis, he proposed a renewal of culture and politics based on Christian values to save Europe from economic, moral and social collapse.”

and

“…….the new Hungarian constitution as a way forward for all of Europe, saying it is based on dignity, freedom, family, nation, fidelity, and love, with the express obligation to help the poor……”

Hallelujah Orban! Save us! Save us! Save us!

So sick making.

Truly sick making.

http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/abandonment-of-christian-principles-led-to-europes-economic-crisis-hungaria/

Regards

Charlie

spectator
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
I’m seriously thinking of sending an open letter to István Hiller. I’m sure that I could do it via Galamus. I’m really, really outraged. It is time for Hungarian society to face that academic integrity simply doesn’t exist in Hungary. How can this country get out of morass without doing something about this?

Eva, I haven’t heard Hiller, but hearing of Semjén, at first I thought as well, that it’s a bit too thick, too much coincidence for my taste. I can imagine, that Hiller also thought of the whole as a possible political action rather as an academic dispute, – it may explain some of his reaction.

However, having learned the details and reading parts – it’s a nightmare to handle, btw – of the published ‘works’ I am convinced, that the ‘academic fraud’ as Christopher put it, stand totally.

A really scary thing to imagine, just how many ‘scholars’ are out there with degrees of similar ‘value’, and just what tremendous damage they are able to make in positions what they ‘earned’ this way…!

Curly
Guest
“For me one of the most shocking statements on this subject came from the socialist István Hiller, former minister of education. Before he became a politician Hiller taught history at ELTE. He achieved the rank of associate professor. He speaks German, Italian, and English, and his knowledge of Latin and Greek is also excellent. He received the lecturer of the year award in 2001. And yet this man found the plagiarism case old hat.” I’m really not sure what is shocking here. It doesn’t matter whether the person is socialist, Fidesz, minister of education, teacher at ELTE, a minor college, high school, or student somewhere. He’s Hungarian, this is Hungary, and that simply is what happens here. A lot in fact, as others have already pointed out. (In my own experience, the worst offenders are teachers). The shocking part for many in Hungarian education is to even point this out. It is considered “bad form” to bring up the topic–I know this from many years of teaching here; for years I was the only one who ever mentioned the “p” word and who tried to discourage students from it (or, gasp, to fail them, which a “good” teacher does not… Read more »
spectator
Guest

CharlieH :
London Calling!
“……To solve this crisis, he proposed a renewal of culture and politics based on Christian values to save Europe from economic, moral and social collapse.”
Hallelujah Orban! Save us! Save us! Save us!
Regards
Charlie

– Its pretty clear, that only the prayer can help Orban , if anything..!
Otherwise – as I see it – it’s even worse than sick – it’s a clearly calculated step, a step when he trying to gain influence by cajoling the churches into believing, that he is the one who brings back the old glory and wealth of the religious institutions by uniting the state again with the church. Quite a few sign point this way, recently.

God save us from religious zealotry!
Amen!

hunleonidas
Guest

Reblogged this on hungarianvirus and commented:
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Minusio
Guest

Éva: “… that academic integrity simply doesn’t exist in Hungary…”

My 66-year old girlfriend is fighting with this whenever she has to read the first and then the final version of a doctoral dissertation. These candidates mostly pass because she almost rewrites these theses (which I frankly think is not her job, and doing this she is supporting a rotten system). When she critizied – as an “opponent” – a work from a PhD candidate from Debrecen, there were about 50 people from Debrecen who booed her (I was there.). Most of her friends I know have a “Dr.”, but in Switzerland this would be no more than a B.A.

No, academic integrity doesn’t exist in Hungary.

OldWest33
Guest

i’m shocked by the depth of the hungarian anti-communism.
it is the overpowering self-destructive part of the conservative hatemongers.
they will tolerate the jobbiks, or the old arrowcrosses, but will despise the phantom communists even if it kills them.
there is a similarity with the other troubled nations of the world.
luckily, america and west is not yet there.
we have to watch our enlightenment to avoid this desctructive mccarthyism.

Member

LwiiH :
This is clearly plagiarism + fraud. I would think that anyone that honestly earned a degree should be up in arms as this puts into question the value of any degree earned in Hungary.

Maybe the problem lyes with a possible conclusion: THere is not too many Hungarian who earned an a degree honestly. I am sure this is the conclusion that will be drawn not only by me, but in International circles.

dvhr
Guest

Eva, the excellent scientist Fokasz Nikosz, a Greek born and raised in Hungary, uses “Nikos Fokas” as the English form of his name.

Guest

This plagiarism problem exists not only in Hungary – if anyone is interested (and can read German), here’s the latest case: http://www.spiegel.de/unispiegel/studium/schavans-plagiatsaffaere-wie-die-wissenschaft-reagiert-a-867675.html

Funnily enough Mrs Schavan is the German Minister for Science and Education – she should know better ….

Imho this is typical: Really good academics have an academic career, people with more ambition than academic knowledge/intelligence/whatever you call it seem to know that a career in politics is easier …

So I’m really wary if I see academics with a political career – often they’re neither good academics nor good politicians, just power hungry (and corrupt) distorted personalities …

Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
I’m seriously thinking of sending an open letter to István Hiller. I’m sure that I could do it via Galamus. I’m really, really outraged. It is time for Hungarian society to face that academic integrity simply doesn’t exist in Hungary. How can this country get out of morass without doing something about this?

Your open letter should be addressed to the president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Copies to Galamus and other similar media. Do it.

Zengő
Guest

I guess it is time to check István Hiller’s own scientific credentials.

By the way, to be the most popular professor simply means that Hiller gave good grades to everyone.

There is no grading accordnig to the curve in Hungary, there are classes where 90% gets an A (like HIller’s classes) and in other classes 90% fails for the first try.

Oral exams, which is a separate issue, are also completely unreliable. I persopnally have never sensed corruption, but unfairness or erratic behaviour I experienced so many times (though truth be told unfairness sometimes works both ways, ie I got a better grade then would have been the case).

Hungary is a Balkan-country, or a mid-income level country globally and its higher education (or its health care, restaurant service etc.) corresponds to these development levels.

Bowen
Guest
Apart from academic laziness, there is the issue of sheer selfishness here. Presumably, people like Semjen and Hiller have had several students. What are these students to do with the knowledge that their supervisors/lecturers have such low standards? It’s a betrayal. Of course, some students may not care, because they themselves will have cheated, because why shouldn’t they? What idiot would waste time and effort completing a dissertation properly when they could just copy someone else’s work? People like Schmitt and Semjen have proven that you can get very far by ‘tricking’ the system. But what’s worse, is that people like Semjen are responsible for propagating a system that believes that it’s allowable – admirable even – to trick and cheat the system. To craftily subvert the rules and ‘get away with it’. To prove that you are ‘better’ and ‘smarter’ than the system which is designed to test how ‘smart’ you are. They might even pride themselves that this is where the real skill lies. They might think that they are better than the stupid suckers (like in Yale) who spend months doing original research, going without sleep and missing their families. And until the Hungarian government, or the… Read more »
Kingfisher
Guest

In fairness, from my own observation and experience, it is a very different story in proper science/maths/engineering faculties where students and teachers seem altogether more serious in what they do and how they study. These people generally don’t go into politics though…

Jano
Guest
Eva: I totally support your letter, I really hope you go through with it, although I have no illusions about this effect. We can cherrypick Semjén’s or Schmitt’s case but the practice is so pervasive, you could find something scandalous about half of the parliament members at least. Plagiarism and cheating is simply the norm. Everybody’s copying the homeworks. I’m not just talking about discussing results, word by word copying without the slightest effort to at least understand what you are writing down is an everyday phenomenon. I had a friend who didn’t even bother to do the text copy pasting, he put together his lab reports from jpg image files he took with his camera(!) on other people’s lab results. It was painfully obvious, but of course nothing ever happened because nobody cared and these professors were called “rendes”… Mind you, just last week I found a clear cut copy case on an exam here in the US. It was quite possibly the best “xerox by hand” I’ve ever seen in my life. The two kids belong to the other TA, so I consulted her just to find out that they have been consistently submitting homeworks in a similar… Read more »
Zengő
Guest

The difference between natural science/maths/engineering and liberal arts/social science (where Semjén and Hiller operat) is that the former sciences are global and globally competitive. In the fomrer arena profs need to conform to some minimal standards, because its very easy to find out if somebody is substandard.

At the same time there is effectively no meaningful publication by Hungarian scholars in the international liberal arts/social studies journals (history, philosophy, sociolgy, anthropology, economics, languages etc.), everything that happens is purely internal and is in Hungarian (so nobody can underestand the current state of these disciplines compared to intl. standards). In other words there is zero pressue to live up to some objective (peer-reviewed) standards.

Member

It’s not just the stealing … They are all dumb as hell. Check this out! Zoltan Balog included Bence Uz in the national curriculum.

http://www.parlament.hu/irom39/08997/08997-0001.pdf

Bence Uz is a character from a Jozsef Nyiro (the nazi writer) book. Just shows that these turul troopers didn’t even bother to read Nyiro’s books. They also misspelled his name …

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