Some thought the irony of a Treasury Secretary who cheated on his taxes was extreme but Germany has gone one better as the nation's Education Minister has just been stripped of her PhD due to plagiarism. As Spiegel Online reports, the University of Düsseldorf has revoked German Education Minister Annette Schavan's degree because "she systematically and deliberately presented intellectual efforts throughout her entire dissertation that were not her own." As such, she was guilty of "intentional deception through plagiarism." Allegations that parts of her dissertation were not consistent with academic standards were first raised last spring and were hardened in October when a blogger released detailed findings of citation shortcomings he had found in the education minister's dissertation. Of course, she has taken the political route to this problem - denial - admitting merely to "oversights," and adding that "There was no cheating involved." The university voted 12 to 2 to revoke her degree and invalidate her academic title. Schavan is yet to resign from Merkel's Cabinet. What next? A skeet-shooting gun tzar, a job tzar responsible for thousands of jobs losses while in the private sector, or a Nobel Peace Prize winner building a drone army.
Merkel's Education Minister Has Ph.D. Title Revoked
German Education Minister Annette Schavan has long been dogged by accusations that she had plagiarized parts of her Ph.D. thesis. Now, the University of Düsseldorf has revoked her degree. She may be forced to resign from Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet.
It was shortly after 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday evening when Bruno Bleckmann, a professor of ancient history at the University of Düsseldorf, stepped in front of the waiting journalists. He quickly strode up to the microphone to deliver his statement. A faculty board, Bleckmann said, had arrived at the decision to declare German Education Minister Annette Schavan's Ph.D. thesis "invalid and to revoke her doctor title."
Based on an internal university analysis of Schavan's doctoral thesis, which she submitted in 1980, and on her own statement regarding her work, the committee voted 12 to 2 to invalidate her academic title, Bleckmann said. There was one abstention. "As a doctoral candidate, she systematically and deliberately presented intellectual efforts throughout her entire dissertation that were not her own," Bleckmann said. Large sections of the work, he continued, had been taken from elsewhere without adequate attribution. As such, she was guilty of "intentional deception through plagiarism."
The announcement is the worst possible outcome for Schavan. The very suspicion that she had plagiarized parts of her dissertation had "hit her hard," as she said last year. Allegations that parts of her dissertation were not consistent with academic standards were first raised last spring and were hardened in October when a blogger released detailed findings of citation shortcomings he had found in the education minister's dissertation. She has consistently denied the charges, admitting merely to "oversights." Immediately after Bleckmann finished delivering his statement, Schavan's lawyer released a statement indicating that the minister planned to file a legal challenge to the revocation of her dissertation at a Düsseldorf court. "There was no cheating involved," the statement read.
Bleckmann also rejected Schavan's argument that conventions regarding citations were different at the time when she wrote her dissertation. He said that the board's decision was not a "projection of today's standards back in time." He pointed out that even at the time there were "accepted guidelines" that explained how to correctly cite passages taken from secondary sources. One version of those guidelines had even been published by her Ph.D. advisor, it was recently revealed.
Schavan is now faced with the prospect of losing her position on Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet. It wouldn't be the first time that a German cabinet minister was forced to resign after losing a doctor title. Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg stepped down in the spring of 2011 after it was determined that he had plagiarized large sections of his Ph.D. thesis. Already, demands have been made for Schavan to resign from her party by the Greens, the Left Party and the Pirate Party.