September 9, 2004


Ogletree admits lifted passages: Harvard professor cites editing mistake (Marcella Bombardieri and David Mehegan, September 9, 2004, Boston Globe)

A recent book by Harvard Law School professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr. includes six paragraphs lifted almost directly from another author's work, in what Ogletree said was a mistake made as the draft of his book passed through the hands of two assistants.

After an investigation by Harvard, Ogletree published a letter of apology on the law school's website last week.

"I made a serious mistake during the editorial process of completing this book, and delegated too much responsibility to others during the final editing process," Ogletree wrote in the statement, which was approved by the school's administration. "I was negligent in not overseeing more carefully the final product that carries my name."

The book, "All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half-Century of Brown v. Board of Education," was published earlier this year. A long passage at the beginning of one chapter was taken, without attribution, from a book of essays edited by Yale Law School professor Jack M. Balkin. Balkin's book, "What Brown v. Board of Education Should Have Said," was published in 2001.

Maybe he should have written the book himself?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 9, 2004 8:41 AM

Being a Black Leftie in American academia means never having to meet even minimal professional standards.

Posted by: Bart at September 9, 2004 10:20 AM

Hey this writing stuff's just too hard.

Posted by: J.H. at September 9, 2004 10:41 AM

J.H. - I guess his assistants felt that way too.

Posted by: pj at September 9, 2004 2:21 PM

Like Reagan did?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 10, 2004 2:07 AM

Unfair, Harry.

If you mean that Reagan didn't write any of his own speeches, from 1975 to 1979 Reagan gave a daily radio commentary, over a thousand in all. He wrote 670 of them himself, with no input by anyone else.
Also, in 1963, he wrote a speech in which he presented the idea that a prolonged arms race would bankrupt the Soviet Union, an idea well ahead of its time, and one that proved to be absolutely correct.

If you mean that he had a habit of quoting lines from his old movies, applying them to real-life situations without attribution, that's true, but irrelevant.
We all read thousands of books, magazine articles, and newspaper stories; we see hundreds of television shows, and scores of movies; hopefully, we also read some classic literature, such as Shakespeare, Dickens, or Heinlein.
From those, we get tens of thousands of ideas and quotes. A good speaker can recall the perfect idea to present, or phrase to say, in order to sway an audience, and Reagan was no different, except that he had produced some of that cultural backround material. When Buckley was running for Mayor of New York City, nobody would think it strange if he'd quoted from something he'd written.
Reagan was just very, very good at reaching into his past and pulling out the perfect phrase for his current situation.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 10, 2004 6:01 AM


When professional academics steal lines and claim that they wrote them, they are violating professional standards.

When politicians read speeches prepared mostly by professional speechwriters, they are behaving in the standard manner. Elected officials have things to do like run the government. Pedants, or in Ogletree's case putative pedants, don't do anything but write.

Posted by: Bart at September 10, 2004 6:23 AM