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UC Berkeley professor is exonerated of plagiarism accusations

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JANUARY 31, 2013

UC Berkeley professor and chair of the anthropology department Terrence Deacon was cleared of all accusations of plagiarism in a report released Wednesday.

Since October, an investigation committee made up of senior faculty from the campus had been examining claims that Deacon plagiarized content in his book “Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged From Matter.” A report released by the committee Wednesday exonerated Deacon of all suspicion and stated that it could not find evidence to support charges of plagiarism.

Over the past 13 months, Alicia Juarrero, a professor of philosophy at Prince George’s Community College, repeatedly accused Deacon of allegedly plagiarizing from her book “Dynamics In Action: Intentional Behavior as a Complex System.” She claimed Deacon stole broad ideas rather than copying passages verbatim, the report states.

“The alleged evidence of plagiarism — the commonalities in themes discussed and references made — seems to us to result from the two writers having drawn, again, independently, on the same well-known philosophical and scientific sources,” the committee said in the report.

The report also addressed claims that Deacon plagiarized ideas from Juarrero’s colleagues; Carl Rubino, a classics professor at Hamilton College; and Michael Lissack, executive director of the Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence.

Deacon renounced all accusations and said in addition to accusations of plagiarism, there was a “smear campaign” launched against him led by Lissack.

“Professionally, although I have been exonerated of these baseless allegations, this also still leaves unaddressed their intended intellectual implication: i.e. that my work is somehow merely parallel to this earlier work, when in fact the assumptions, theories, and conclusions are radically different and opposed to those I allegedly copied,” Deacon said in an email.

Despite the report’s exoneration of Deacon, Lissack continues to stand by his allegations of plagiarism.

“Apparently, Berkeley does truly believe there is one standard for students (who are required to check their stuff against the Internet and academic databases) and a very different standard for senior professors,” Lissack said.

The campus has launched a website containing details about the affair in an attempt to clear Deacon’s name and repair his academic reputation, according to Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Robert Price.

“So, although those of us who have earned some degree of academic notoriety are used to blistering criticism and intense intellectual debates, this new form of electronic disinformation portends an uglier future for our intellectual enterprise unless we collectively figure out how to deal with it,” Deacon said.

Gladys Rosario covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected].

JANUARY 31, 2013

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