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Evidence of further plagiarism by former Review columnist surfaces

After a former Stanford Review columnist came under fire last week for alleged plagiarism in a 2012 article, evidence of further plagiarism in some of the columnist’s other articles has come to light. As of Sunday night, all but one story attributed to the former columnist—Vasant Ramachandran ’11 M.S. ’12—had been removed from The Review’s website.

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The original controversy centered on a 2012 Review article—Should College Athletes Get Paid? by Ramachandran—which bore extensive similarities to a 2006 article—The Other Side: College Athletes Shouldn’t Be Paid, by Dan Cassavaugh—published in Imprint Magazine.

While that article was quickly removed from The Review’s website on Thursday, The Daily used an online plagiarism checker tool to examine the other stories listed on Ramachandran’s Review archive.

The checker highlighted two of 15 stories written by Ramachandran as containing “possible plagiarism.” Daily editors subsequently compared the original articles line-by-line with Ramachandran’s works, both of which offered fairly clear evidence of plagiarism from the previously published sources.

In a May 2011 column titled Conservative Prison Reform: Less Crime, Less Waste, Ramachandran wrote about conservative lawmakers latching onto prison reform in a piece that bore extensive similarities to a Los Angeles Times article—on the same subject—written four months earlier.

In addition to sharing a nearly identical tone, structure and message, one paragraph was in effect lifted directly from the earlier article, with the only alteration to a complex concluding sentence being the addition of quotation marks.

Another of Ramachandran’s columns, which was published in February 2011 and which focused on fixing California’s rising high school dropout rate, offers similar indications of plagiarism, borrowing from a piece by Tom Elias that had been published by The Record Searchlight a few weeks before Ramachandran’s column.

For one sentence, only the beginning’s structure and a few of the connecting words have been changed. Another section offers more differences between Ramachandran’s column and Elias’ piece, but retains—unaltered—a phrase commenting on “the rise of charter schools and the proliferation of private schools.”

Current Review Editor in Chief Judith Romea ’14 made the decision to remove the remainder of Ramachandran’s articles from The Review’s site over the weekend until their staff could check them for signs of plagiarism.

“We took them [all of Ramachandran’s articles] down to ensure that they did not contain any other evidence of plagiarism,” Romea said. “The ones that we deem to be original we will put back up immediately.”

Kevin Baumgartner ’11, who was The Review’s opinion editor from February to June 2011, said that he was able to find Ramachandran’s original rough draft on the California high school dropout rate. According to Baumgartner, that draft was also flagged as “possibly plagiarized” by an online plagiarism detection tool.

“The evidence you’ve presented is overwhelming,” he wrote in an email to The Daily, “and I’m forced to conclude that the [three articles] you highlighted were probably plagiarized. To the best of my knowledge, the Review had no policy mandating plagiarism checks for any section, neither during my term nor during the tenure of my immediate predecessor.”

“Obviously, I should have been more diligent,” Baumgartner added. “I regret being involved in this incident and apologize on behalf of the 2010-2011 Review. I am confident that the current Review leadership will respond to this incident quickly and firmly, and I hope that they will consider tightening the pre-publication editing and assessment process.”

Romea said that The Review will release an official statement this morning. As of Sunday evening, The Daily has not been able to reach Ramachandran for comment.

 

Sam Fisher contributed to this report.

The two articles above, and the first column discovered on Thursday, were the only potential incidents of plagiarism flagged by the free version of the online checker used by The Daily.

 

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