To my students in Beijing, Fall 2007:
While grading papers today I encountered two more cases of plagiarism.
One was sophisticated but serious. The other was so blatant that it
was almost unbelievable. That makes a total of three students who
have failed my courses because of plagiarism.
If I had not warned you and given you the opportunity honestly to
correct your essays, there would have been several more. I thank those of
you who were honest and showed me what you had copied.
Plagiarism disturbs me greatly, both because it corrodes my relationship
with you as my students, and because it tells me things about China and
Beida that neither you nor I want to hear.
It corrodes my relationship with you because I work hard to be a good
teacher, I take time to prepare good lectures, and I spend many hours
providing detailed feedback on essays. It is hard work. You cannot
imagine what it is like to correct the details of the 500th essay until
you have done it yourself. I do that to help you
learn to think more clearly, to express yourself convincingly, and to
develop your intellectual power, your ability to understand the world.
I also do it because I value you, I value your ideas, and I think the world
will be a better place when you can all think clearly and behave
intelligently. Later in life, some of you will be leaders with important
positions. I want you to be competent and honest,
for I have seen too often what terrible things can happen when
leaders are incompetent and dishonest. Leadership aside, I want all of you
to be able to create value in your lives, whatever you end up doing,
and you cannot do that if you deceive.
When a student whom I am teaching steals words and ideas from an
author without acknowledgment, I feel cheated, dragged down into the mud.
I ask myself, why should I teach people who knowingly deceive me?
Life is too short for such things. There are better things to do.
Disturbingly, plagiarism fits into a larger pattern of behavior in China.
China ignores international intellectual property rights. Beida sees
nothing wrong in copying my textbook, for example, in complete violation
of international copyright agreements, causing me to lose income,
stealing from me quite directly. No one in China seems to care.
I can buy DVDs in stores and on the street for about one US dollar.
They cost $20-30 outside China; the artists who produced them are
losing enormous amounts of stolen income, billions of dollars each year.
China has become notorious for producing defective products that have to
be recalled because the pose health threats to consumers. A recent cartoon in an
American newspaper shows the Central Committee reacting to an accusation that
they have violated human rights. The response? “Wait until they see what
we put in their toothpaste next!” Corruption is a serious problem in a booming
economy. For example, in the mining industry, about 5000 miners die each year
and mine owners cut corners in violation of the law. The social fabric breaks
when workers die because owners are greedy. The Mandate of Heaven is lost.
China appears to have lost her way. Confucius said, do not
do to others what you do not want them to do to you. He also said, a
gentleman is honest. Honesty and reciprocity are the basis of trust and
community. We cannot get along in a world filled with deceit and defection;
such a world becomes a Hobbesian war of all against all, nasty and brutal.
We cannot do science if we cannot trust what others publish. There is no
reason to try to replicate a result if it cannot be trusted. It
would not be worth the effort. Without replication there can be no shared
knowledge that is tested and trustworthy – that is, no science. Without
science, there can be no technology. And without technology, there can be
no steady increase in productivity, economic growth, and a better life for all.
The penalties for plagiarism that you will encounter later in life are very
serious. If you do it as a graduate student, you can be expelled from
university, and you will not get your degree. If you do it as a faculty
member, you can lose your job. I know you may not believe that, for
the sociology professor at Beida who translated an entire book into Chinese
and published it with his name on it only lost his administrative positions
but kept his professorship and salary. But things are not like that elsewhere.
When plagiarism is detected in the United States, it can end the
career of the person who did it. That is also true in Europe.
The fact that I have encountered this much plagiarism at Beida tells me
something about the behavior of other professors and administrators here.
They must tolerate a lot of it, and when they detect it, they cover it up
without serious punishment, probably because they do not want to lose face.
If they did punish it, it would not be this frequent.
I have greatly enjoyed teaching some of you. I have encountered young minds
here that are as good as any in the world. Many of you are brave, most
of you work very hard, most of you are honest, and some of you are brilliant.
But I am leaving with very mixed feelings. It is quite sad that so many
promising young Chinese think it is necessary to cheat to succeed. They
damage themselves even more than the people from whom they steal and the
people whom they deceive with stolen words.
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
省事为了利润而不惜违反法律 。(译注：cut corners 指贬义的抄近道，此为意译。)