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FDP's Koch-Mehrin stripped of her doctorate

Published: 15 Jun 2011 17:40 GMT+02:00

Heidelberg University said it had withdrawn Koch-Mehrin's academic title after an enquiry found that "substantial parts" of her 2000 doctoral thesis were copied from others.

"Given the variety and the systematic nature of the plagiarism, there can be no doubt that Ms. Koch-Mehrin appropriated others’ intellectual property in her dissertation and used it as her own,” said Manfred Berg, a dean at the university and chair of the committee that has investigated the situation for the last two months.

Koch-Mehrin, 40, was once seen as a rising star of the pro-business FDP, Chancellor Angela Merkel's junior coalition partners, but her popularity had already waned before plagiarism allegations surfaced in May.

On May 11 she quit as head of her party in the European Parliament, as

deputy speaker of the parliament and as a member of the FDP leadership committee, but remained a member of the European body. She has been serving there since 2004.

On Wednesday Koch-Mehrin's spokesman said in a statement that the MEP was "surprised" and that her lawyers would examine the legality of the university's decision.

"I have known for 11 years that my doctoral thesis is no masterpiece... But (the university) awarded me the doctorate title in 2000 in full knowledge of all the glaring weaknesses," the statement said. "I deeply regret this decision."

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, once the most popular figure in Merkel's cabinet, resigned as defence minister on March 1 after his doctorate was rescinded for massive plagiarism in his 2006 thesis.

His alma mater, Bayreuth University, found that "the standards of good scientific practice were obviously grossly abused and it was obvious that plagiarism was involved."

The episode earned the aristocratic minister the nickname "Baron Cut-and-Paste" and prompted the academic works of other figures to be scrutinised, including through collaborative websites.

Another casualty was Veronica Sass, the daughter of Edmund Stoiber, the long-serving former state premier of Bavaria who unsuccessfully ran for chancellor in 2002.

AFP/DAPD/The Local/mdm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

18:23 June 15, 2011 by Jack Kerouac
"Baron Cut-and-Paste"! how funny! But this gives us something to think about - should we destroy the career of a public official who is good at their job simply because they made a mistake in their personal life? Are they not human as well? Should we trust these cynics who enquire into political figures' personal matters as having the peoples' best interests in mind?
18:52 June 15, 2011 by Louis Prince
I agree Jack. I also think Plagiarism regulation are getting ridiculous. When you write a paper, you are bound to quote a source and then write an opinion or conclusion on that. When writing a Thesis you use little original information and support it with accepted and known information. Only way to avoid plagiarism then is by putting most of the info in your own words, but according to me this is even worse, it takes away the authenticity.
19:37 June 15, 2011 by Kayak
Oh, the horror - the horror! Is she a mother? Ha!
19:38 June 15, 2011 by gherhardt
I disagree Jack. Plagiarism should always be punished because it shows a lack of character and willingness to cheat and lie. It also shows that a plagiarist can conceal truths for as long as she can get away with it. Such a person would probably only care about herself, and not have the people's best interest in mind.

Louis; it is impossible to write papers, theses or dissertations without hundreds or thousands of information sources. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as one cites every bit of information. One is supposed to form an abstract, formulate hypotheses and theses, and analyze and argue such theses using the citations as support. It is the analysis that matters... not the information in the citation. My guess is that when someone plagiarizes, they plagiarize the analysis, not the supporting information.
21:23 June 15, 2011 by harcourt
Gherhardt : I totally agree with your sentiments. Once a person has knowingly cheated, whether they are a public figure or a partner, trust goes out of the window. In the case of a public figure it is also an extremely bad example to the general public. People who say "well everybody does it" are no better than the folks who joined in throwing stones through shop windows on " Kristallnacht "
23:03 June 15, 2011 by finanzdoktor
I am sorry, but between "Baron Cut-and-Paste" and this recent academic fiasco, I couldn't help be reminded of the song "Another one bites the dust" by Queen.

@ gerhardt: You are most correct!!!!!! Take it from somone who has had to go through the process and was found not to plagarize (yes, they did run it through a database check).
23:29 June 15, 2011 by Jack Kerouac
Whoa harcourt, slow down. Plagiarists are not camparable to those who took part in Kristallnacht. But you know that. I suppose the side that says those who plagiarize set bad exmaples for others has a point. However, when is the last time you actually looked to an elected official for guidance? No one expects

them to be exemplary human beings. Putting their character into question is a tactic used by their political opponents to take focus away from their acheivements. One might say that plagiarizing a doctoral thesis breaks the bond of trust that society places on a politician. But do any of us truely trust any politicians?

My point is that hypotheticals, like saying a public figure's ambivalence toward lying and cheating will potentially affect the outcome of their performance, is not relevant when compared to their record. The most important thing is that they acheive results in a reasonably ethical way, to the best of their constituants interests. None of us are perfect either, so what is with these lofty expectations? It's unreasonable.
23:58 June 15, 2011 by jg.
@Jack Kerouac "...what is with these lofty expectations? It's unreasonable."

No it isn't unreasonable. If I lie about my qualifications or experience when applying for a job, I can expect to get sacked if/when the employer finds out. I don't see why politicians should be allowed some special treatment. These people have set themselves up on pedestals as our leaders and take our taxes to pay their salaries and expenses. I don't care if a politician doesn't have a doctorate or any university education, as long as they do their job - but if they are going to lie and cheat, they should expect to lose their jobs, just like the rest of us.
00:20 June 16, 2011 by AbhilashD
Agree totally with gherhardt. Plagiarism is an enormous crime. Once you've stooped that low, how can you be trusted? Especially when you're as big and important as these guys.
00:29 June 16, 2011 by SusannahM
I wrote a dissertation in the USA at a UC. I had a committee of three professors who scrutinized it and handed it back countless times over many months until it was deemed worthy to be submitted by their lofty standards. Does no one in Germany read dissertations before the degrees are handed out? Does one just submit a book length work and get a doctorate, easy as that? It seems to me some of the fault lies on the shoulders of the universities for not at least doing some basic source checking before they bestow such high level degrees.
01:54 June 16, 2011 by tj33
"should we destroy the career of a public official who is good at their job"

In what way was Guttenberg "good at his job"? What experience did he bring to the table? What has he ever accomplished?

"simply because they made a mistake in their personal life"

Having wild sex parties in his castle's dungeon would be a "mistake in his personal life", and I wouldn't give a damn.

Obtaining a doctorate through plagiarism is professional misconduct and calls into question his job qualificiations.
03:03 June 16, 2011 by strahlungsamt
Another lying conservative.

I bet she'd happily throw you in jail for downloading a CD.

Yup! True Conservative Family Values there. Belongs in the dungeon with Guttenburg. Throw away the key.
03:11 June 16, 2011 by Ruderman
I agree with SusannahM, these Universities are not doing their job. I suspect neglect on their part. What did the advising Professors do, make sure it passed a weight quota? I can see it now: Your Thesis came in just over the 2 kg limit, you pass! Here's your diploma!
08:09 June 16, 2011 by DoubleDTown
My suspicion is that the advising Professors did nothing. Once they get made Professor, they are DONE. It's all gravy after that. Wissenschaflichemitarbeiters carry load, and they are probably too busy with their every day life plus trying to get published so they can one day be a Professor to thoroughly check for plagiarism.

That said, the Internet has been an effective tool to find plagiarism that certainly existed in 2000 when Koch-Mehrin slipped by, and darned sure was available when Gutenberg slid by. German academia has nobody but itself to blame for the dilution of a Deustch "Dr." title.
08:09 June 16, 2011 by harcourt
It is heartening to see that within this comments column only a small minority actually condone what von Guttenberg etc. did. I guess it comes down to personal standards, if deep down you know that you too have plagiarised, or would do so if the occasion presented itself, you are bound to support von Guttenberg, Koch-Mehrin or persons like that !!
12:05 June 16, 2011 by William Thirteen
even more embarassing...it turns out that Koch-Mehrin plagiarized major section of her PHD thesis from KT zu Guttenberg!
12:58 June 16, 2011 by ChrisRea
I haven't heard of any real accomplishment of Mr. zu Guttenberg. It is just known that he failed in reforming the army.

He used to be popular, indeed. But his popularity was based on his appearances and manners, not on being good at his job.

Everyone makes mistakes. However, if one tries to cover up an old mistake (and this is exactly what Mr. zu Guttenberg did once confronted with the accusations of plagiarism), it means both that the respective person has a deceitful character (which makes him/her not worth of being elected in a public position) and that that person does not have a high understanding of how public opinion work (which would also not recommend him/her for a public office; I resisted the temptation of using the word "stupid").

Apparently Ms. Koch-Mehrin does the same. She does not contest the fact that she is a plagiarist, but that the University has the right to withdraw her academic title once it was awarded. Funny, isn't it?

The problem is not limited to politicians. In Germany many students do plagiarise and this goes unpunished by most professors. Actually it is even worse. Professors encourage this behaviour by doing the same thing - they put themselves their names as authors on papers written entirely by students.
18:10 June 16, 2011 by neunElf
I agree with the previous posts, who awards these doctorates without proper vetting?

This indicates a substantial weakness in a t least some German university examination procedures and practices. The university system needs to aggressively respond to this apparent problem or risk becoming like other EU countries who bestow the title of Doctor or should I say Dottore?
18:18 June 16, 2011 by lunchbreak
Plagiarism is a matter of character and plagiarism in one's doctoral dissertation signifies a significant lack of character. Lack of character is essential in those who are delegated with the public trust.

All these phonies deserve to lose their jobs at the very least and probably prosecution as well. Their cheap pretense demeans those who actually worked hard on their doctorate. Some jail time would go a long way in reestablishing respect for academia.
18:49 June 16, 2011 by Jack Kerouac
I agree with your opinion, Chrisrea, a man or woman with a deceitful character does not deserve to be elected. But these two plagiarists did get elected. Why is that?

JG. - You're right, if a person lies about their qualifications, they should lose their job. However, politicians lie to 'the people' all of the time, and still keep their jobs. Why is plagiarism worse than lying about sexual misconduct, for example? Or a leader lying to their citizens, gaining flase support for a military conflict? I think some people get persuaded by media exaggerations, then get overly-excited and think themselves all-knowing judges. Maybe I'm a bit jaded, but in my opinion we need to judge politicians on a curve. Otherwise, we'll be too cynical about EVERY person in a leadership role.
19:30 June 16, 2011 by Englishted
If downloading a song can get you a massive fine for breaking copyright,what is

plagiarism ,theft? but one is for personnal use eg to hear,the other is for personnal gain and is fraud which again is a crime .

When will I read of one of these lawbreakers being brought to book ?,

never because one law for them and one law for us.
14:30 June 17, 2011 by dbert4
I don't care....she's still pretty hot!
16:15 June 17, 2011 by lunchbreak
Not bad for a 40 year old. Maybe we should let her get away with it. Women who look good shouldn't be held accountable for anything they do or say. Eye candy is its own justification.
22:05 June 17, 2011 by whpmgr
She is pretty, depending on the shot of her.

OK, so we have a majority here saying Plageurizing is a crime, anyone convicted of it should lose their job, lose their title, maybe go to prison. We see that majority say that plageurizing is a sign of deceit, and that if you would do that, you would do anything. We see oft, above, that if you think the punishment of Guttenberg was too harsh, you are also prone to be a deceitful liar yourself and that you probably bugger sheep (I just added that for fun).

I wonder, why so much thought behind all of this? Why so much anger? Why do you all care so much? How many liberal or Green politicians are guilty of the same but no one is looking into them? If two did it, it is probable that many others have too. Hell, I needed a Thesis fro my Master's. That took long enough and was hard enough as it was. So how many in germany have a master's via plageurism?

Better get the detectives going and find the rest. Teh fact is, you can bet your life several are guilty of it. Why isnt some paper, FAz not looking into everyone of them? WHY? because it would find that my assertion is true. It woul,d mean the end of a bunch of politicians, and liberals are more prone to dishonesty than conservatives, because the mantra of the liberal left is that ends justifies the means. Shut down the entire government. If you can't stand for a conservative to do it, why not look at everyone? Because no one cares if it is their candidate, only if it is a successful candidate of the other side.

Baffoons, fools. Look into the problem and see how deep the river actually is. What is your next step when half or more of the politicians have to quit? Where will you get the next Honest candidate with integrity?
08:20 June 18, 2011 by jmclewis
So she has no resigned from the European Parliament, clearly there are no standards in that body she is noting but a glorified welfare queen 7 years as a MEP! She has no shame no guilt just a big sense of entitlement.
09:39 June 18, 2011 by Englishted
whpmgr

"Baffoons, fools. Look into the problem and see how deep the river actually is. What is your next step when half or more of the politicians have to quit? Where will you get the next Honest candidate with integrity? "

So you are saying it is our fault that she lied and cheated ,but it does not matter because none of the others are better ?(the right wing press are seaching to take the heat off) .

As someone said she has not left her seat in the Euro. Parl. because the perks are too good.

Greed and fraud good bedfellows these.
16:18 June 18, 2011 by ChrisRea
@ whpmgr (#24)

"the mantra of the liberal left is that ends justifies the means" - I wonder where did you get this from. Recognised American law professors like Tom Farer or Kenneth Anderson say that consequentialism is typical for neoconservatives. What do you know that they do not? :)
18:15 June 21, 2011 by whpmgr
What do I know that they don't? I know they are great with coming up with names like consequentialism, or talking about what is typical for NEOCONSERVATIVES. I know that in reality, we are literally fighting for the lives and hearts and minds of all of the States in the US and also in the countries around teh world. I know that every high-browed educated liberal is making a great many unsubstantiated claim or coming up with skewed research to proive their points since they dont care about truth, just about winning at any and all costs.

It is easier in Europe as there are more open minded liberal raised kids. Where you cant spank your kid, you reason with your 6 year old. You already think that Socialism is great, and everyone can have everything, and all you all have to do is pay all of your earnings to the government. You get free medical care, but it is rationed. You pay for insurance to the government, and except for France, you pay so much money to a dentist and get little help. I know you pay 19% Value added tax on products to support these criminals that are politicians and are not getting your money's worth.

I know a great deal as I have been on many continents and seen the rich and the poor. I know you wont be happy until you are sucking the last penny out of the last working person.

This is much deeper than plagiarizing. This is a war against decency and morals. At any cost. It is morality, proper to plagiarize? NO, but in thescheme of things, it is almost too late to do anything about anything. To have credentials to riun for office, people expect to have the highest educated, youngest and sexiest/handsomist (not a word) person. You cant be young and know everything, you have to age to get that kind of knowledge. In this world, we look at how good looking the candidate is, not what their qualifications are. So to be qualified, the young have to cheat to be considered.
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