March 27th, 2012

University committee says Schmitt not guilty of plagiarism, but concedes president’s thesis deeply flawed; parliamentary opposition united in calls for resignation

A committee charged with investigating charges that current state President Pál Schmitt had plagiarized his 1992 doctoral thesis on Wednesday released a finding that he was not guilty of plagiarism, despite the fact that the thesis was based in large part on material nearly identical to published works by other scholars.

Schmitt was embroiled in the controversy in early January, when journalists revealed that much of Schmitt’s dissertation about the Olympic Games was apparently copied wholesale from the work of a Bulgarian scientist.

Budapest’s Semmelweis University – which absorbed the once-separate Budapest Sports University that awarded Schmitt’s degree – set up a five-member fact-finding committee to probe the allegations, and this morning released a three-page summary of its report, which runs to more than 1,000 pages.

“Completely Identical”

The committee said that from page 34 to 50, the thesis is completely identical to a paper written by German sports sociologist Klaus Heinemann, and another 180 pages are partly identical to a paper written by the Bulgarian scholar, Nikolay Georgiev.

The committee also pointed to the lack of proper citations or bibliography and other significant lapses.

The “split decision” by the committee boils down to a recognition that Schmitt’s thesis was flawed, but that the responsibility for this lies with the former Sports University rather than Schmitt.

“If not an irregularity, it was certainly a formal mistake that the thesis is generally characterized by the insufficiency and lack of referencing which the supervisor at the time and the assessors of the thesis should have pointed out during the preparatory phase and in the pre-assessment,” the report said. The Sports University made a mistake by not revealing these shortcomings and leading the writer to believe that the thesis met the requirements, it added.

Schmitt has said he would respect the committee’s decision but insisted that he did not plagiarize his dissertation. The issue of Schmitt’s alleged plagiarism has been a “taboo” topic within the ranks of the ruling party, although off the record many of the party’s politicians (and one notably on the record) have said if the allegations are true, the president would have to resign.

Opposition united in calls for resignation

In the wake of the committee’s announcement, all four parliamentary opposition parties called on Schmitt to resign, while Fidesz said that based on available knowledge it considered the case closed, and its Christian Democratic junior coalition partner said it hoped the report would end the “political attacks” on the president.

Dóra Dúró of the radical nationalist Jobbik denounced the “ridiculous conclusions” of the report and said that if Fidesz failed to call on Schmitt to resign, it would prove that “keeping a politically loyal figure in position is more important to them than transparency in public affairs.”

Csaba Molnár, the deputy chairman of the Democratic Coalition (DK), which is headed by former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurscány, said the committee had tried to defend Schmitt despite evidence that he had “stolen scientific data and obtained his doctoral title illegitimately.” He added that ten DK politicians would cease using their doctoral titles in protest.

Meanwhile, the Green LMP party called a “flash” demonstration for tonight in front of Parliament at 7:00 p.m.

Gov’t said planning changes to presidential succession

Despite earlier reports that the government was confident that Schmitt would escape serious censure by the panel, last week the governing coalition was said to have begun preparing to modify relevant laws to add more detail to the presidential succession process.

Under current law, if a president offers his resignation, parliament must begin debate on the matter within 15 days. A minimum of ten MPs or an official party faction can call upon the president to reconsider, but if the president insists on resigning, parliament has to respect his or her wishes.

According to atv.hu, Fidesz and its Christian Democratic allies would add language for situations in which a president is to be removed by parliament in the event that he or she deliberately broke the law or committed a crime.

Editor’s Note: This report is subject to updating and in part on dispatches from MTI.

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  • Ponzi

    Of course Schmitt will be cleared. No Hungarian hero has ever cheated, committed fraud or plagiarism. Viva Hungary, Viva el Presidente, tu amor revolucionario te conduce a nueva empresa donde esperan la firmeza de tu brazo libertario!!

  • Aloof

    They’ll just re-write the laws to suit them just as they did for György Szapáry, the current Hungarian ambassador to Washington. The law in force at the time stated that the compulsory retirement age for diplomats was 70, but OV’s choice for the Washington post was 72. No problem.

    Or Fidesz-introduced rule that former members of the armed forces cannot play any political role for 5 years after leaving the Army or the police force. But the Fidesz lawmakers as usual were in too much of a hurry and didn’t realize that an important Fidesz member of parliament (any wild guesses who?) had left the Army only three years earlier. Whoops! No problem, let’s change the law. And they lowered the cut-off point to 3 years.

    Now it’s a new law dealing with parliamentary rules. The parliament functioned quite well for 22 years with the old rules. But Fidesz insists on changing everything they can lay their hands on. It would have been normal to make the changes at the end of the session, during the summer recess but then they couldn’t have prevented Ferenc Gyurcsány’s party, the DK from forming a parliamentary caucus. (Naw, no vindictiveness there…)

    There’s more but I think everyone gets the picture.

  • Leto.

    Just what I predicted: not guilty. I hope Schmitt will now sue all these postcommie fucktards for slander and defamation. May they rot in hell!

    • goribo

      Man, you are clueless.

  • Aloof

    I mean this has to be a job you get paid for.

    “The Semmelweis University committee investigating Schmitt has released its findings in what is apparently a “split decision” in which it concluded that he did plagiarize or copy his dissertation, but that the then-independent Testnevelesi University (which is now a part of Semmelweis) should have determined this at the time, and therefore his doctorate will not be stripped.”

    Only you could determine that as a not guilty. You really do exist in some sort of fantasy land man and the king is OV.

    • Leto Muad’dib

      You responded to the nickname forger.

      My opinion is that now Schmitt will have to resign.

  • zeb

    Is the \not guilty\ judgement official yet? Your prediction is a bit premature.

    Nevertheless at the least the President has been immortalized in one manner of speaking: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=ScHmITt+hits+the+fan so plenty of people can have a good laugh at his expense.

  • Leto.

    I didn’t say Schmitt didn’t make a mistake. Mistakes are part of life. Everyone makes them, everyone regrets them. Some learn from them, others don’t and end up making them over and over again. I’m sure that Schmitt will use the mistakes that he made decades ago to his advantage and raise to the occasion – becoming the best President this country has ever known.

    • goribo

      I could go into the distinction between an honest mistake and a deliberate act of cheating. In any case, one learns from his “mistakes” when he faces the consequences of those mistakes. Is that what what is happening here?

    • http://www.allhungary.hu Erik D’Amato

      Certainly one group of people who will learn from Schmitt’s “mistake” is the (sadly few) Hungarian students who never cheat. Why bother?

      • Leto Muad’dib

        @Erik:

        I’m not sitting on the fence anymore. Schmitt has to resign.

        PS: Any news about the nickname registration?

    • American in Budapest

      It’s called plagiarism. The report said that a large chunk of his dissertation was identical to work done by others.

  • Donian

    So nearly 200 pages tainted and a rather disgusting “solution” likely to emerge. Shameful, but unsurprising.

  • Vándorló

    The larger picture is far worse. A degree from a Hungarian institute is now effectively worthless. No wonder the middle classes are cueing up to evacuate their kids abroad for an education. Why pay tuition fees for a worthless piece of paper, presided over by people such as those forming this committee.

    They aren’t without a sense of humour, though. Fidesz’s website sports the article “Orbán: Our homeland can no longer be a land without consequences” (“Orbán: Hazánk többé nem lehet következmények nélküli ország”).

    • Pista

      middle classes? did I miss something?

  • Aloof

    Leto Muad’dib says: March 27, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Whoops! I did indeed and my apologies. I wish Erik would get around to fixing the problem already. I’m as tired as you are at the “the three leto monte” jatek.

    • Leto Muad’dib

      The problem is not my online “reputation” here at all. The problem is this “játék” (game) significantly decreases the chances for meaningful political exchanges and it only creates noise on this site. So it’s not about my (or your) being tired at this, it’s about much more.

  • Vándorló

    Having caught up with things in the Hungarian press, it is quite clear that Schmitt has *not* been cleared of charges of plagarism. Quite the contrary. He has been found to have copied the vast majority of the content of the dissertation for which he was awarded a degree.

    For some ridiculous reason, though, it is not his fault that he was wrongly been awarded a degree and, since no Hungarian adult can be charged with being responsible for their own actions, he gets to keep his degree. The university is responsible for that. However, as that university no longer exists no-one is responsible.

    Further, since the dean of the university that took over the old one is a Fidesz buddy, well…

    So people have done wrong, but it’s no-one’s fault. Meanwhile a Hungarian degree is as valued as used toilet paper.

    • http://www.allhungary.hu Erik D’Amato

      Well, he’s been “cleared” to the extent that this is what most headlines say, while Fidesz’s official line is that the “matter is closed.”

      • Leto Muad’dib

        “Fidesz’s official line is that the “matter is closed.””

        Yes, you’re right. I’ve just checked that. -http://www.fidesz.hu/index.php?Cikk=179154

        That’s a VERY bad decision. :(

  • Really

    Yet another fantasy day in Viktor’s Wonderland. LOL. Corruption takes a lot of forms and Hungary seems to be trying them all.

  • Curious George

    In Hungary, no one ever needs to take personal responsibility for anything. Not Schmitt, not the panel, not MAL, not anyone. Semmelweiss’ reputation will be trash now. I once had a doctor who graduated from there offer me money to write an academic paper for her. At the time, I thought this was an issue which reflected on the individual, and not the institution.
    With this decision, I have no reason to doubt that this sort of behavior is rampant in the university itself. If the distinguished panel can’t even decide whether this constitutes plagiarism, then they are in no position to graduate anyone. I’m glad Semmelweiss is not recognized in my country.

  • sheesh

    Orbán: Hazánk többé nem lehet következmények nélküli ország
    http://www.fidesz.hu/index.php?Cikk=159543

    “A megújulás azt is jelenti, hogy Magyarország nem lehet a jövőben olyan következmények nélküli ország, mint az elmúlt nyolc évben volt – szögezi le Orbán Viktor. Mindannyian azt akarjuk, ez derül ki az Önök üzeneteiből is, hogy Magyarországon ne lehessen többé visszaélni a hatalommal, ne lehessen kibújni a törvények alól – teszi hozzá.”

  • Frankly Franklin

    By many standards, he would be denied a degree. This is IRRELEVANT. By the standards of the time, his only failure, if he agreed with former art or research is that he did not properly cite sources. I am firmly opposed to stripping him of any academic honorifics if they passed muster when the writing was submitted.

    Anything else at this point ignores or distracts from analysis of the substance of his policy-making since and will be pretty much land on deaf ears. If such wrongheadedness continues to be more important than his character, then it makes anyone scrutinizing him outside of those circles look a lot like vintners of “whine” one could call the “sour-grapes crowd.”

    Certainly this would have landed me in hot water in my UNI, but this is not unnatural for a man inspired by the work and thoughts of others with whom he agreed.

    Come on, the Post tries hard to be anti-Fidesz and the people here cannot acquiesce to their analysis? Please…

    • spectator

      “If such wrongheadedness continues to be more important than his character..???”

      - It IS his character, for Heaven’s sake!

      For your information: Being “inspired by the work and thoughts of others with whom he agreed” by the letter, trough a couple of hundred pages called plagiarism. By definition: taking someone’s words or ideas as if they were your own.

      To make it simple: stealing someone’s intellectual property. The key verb here: STEALING, in case, you missed.

      While I’m aware, that the law doesn’t forbid to chose a President with criminal record, I would really see, when the parliament votes on behalf of Mr.Schmitt, knowing that it has been proven, that he indeed committed plagiarism.

      Regarding the other part of your comment: omitting the source wasn’t OK even then, they should have acted upon at the time, but they didn’t, reason known.

      Mr.Schmitt didn’t “passed muster”, he just got away with stealing someone’s work.

      God save the President – from continuous presidency!

    • Anonymous

      Rubbish,

      Pseudo-Franklin. He didn’t borrow. He copied word for word.

      Quit wringling like a snake.

      In the rest of Europe and the developed world much higher standards than here in Hungary.

  • Aloof

    @Frankly Franklin

    Wow! If you can bend ethics or credibility and justify like that then you need to apply pronto for a Fidesz job, that is unless you already have one. So what would motivate an honest person to work hard by his example? It’s who ya know or who ya blow right? No wonder the world and certainly this governmentis in such a sad state. How could any of his policy making be trusted with a such a character like his?

    • Frankly Franklin

      Aloof, I am not bending ethics here. I just think that there may be some issues more important than his lack of intellectual curiosity and integrity at this point… Nor do i justify it.

      If it were my academic judgment, he would have to resubmit his dissertation. BUT it is NOT. So, since I have faith that such laxity will come back on those who avail themselves of it, I give this a pass.

      Which is not to say I think everything is fine, nor that I respect the decision from a personal standpoint. It’s just that I have no control over the decision and would rather see something more relevant and substantive apply/adhere.

  • Pesti

    Gee, nobody saw this coming, did they? (Yes, I’m being sarcastic). It’s the typical Hungarian mentality – just like the fireworks laws; fireworks are illegal in Hungary anytime throughout the year, except New Year’s Eve. Figure out the logic in that one. (???) I guess plagiarism, too, is illegal anytime except when a politician is involved. This country is a joke!

    • Pesti

      Okay, I don’t know if plagiarism is “illegal” in the true sense of the word, but it is certainly not “acceptable” by any standards, anywhere in the world – except, of course, in Hungary.

  • Koermendi

    Does Semmelweiss University have anything like an alumni association? Graduates of that university have the most to lose from this lack of academic rigour — who will believe now that those graduates’ work was more than cut-and-paste, cash-into-an-envelope “bunda”? They should lead any protest against the committee’s exculpation of Schmitt.

  • Sophist
    • Leto Muad’dib

      Thanks a lot for the great article. And congratulations to Mr. Szemerédi! It makes good to be born Hungarian. :)


      The winner of the prestigious Abel Prize of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters for the year 2012 is 72-year-old Hungarian mathematician Endre Szemerédi
      ..
      Szemerédi has been described as a mathematician with exceptional research power and his influence in diverse areas of present-day mathematics has been enormous.
      ..
      The Abel Committee has noted that Szemerédi’s approach belongs to the strong Hungarian problem-solving tradition exemplified by mathematicians such as George Pólya and yet the theoretical impact of his work has been enormous”

      He is the second Hungarian mathematician who received the “Nobel prize of mathematics” since 2003 when it was first awarded.
      -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abel_Prize#Laureates

      -http://www.abelprize.no/

      • Sophist

        Tragedy to throw the reputation of Hungarian academics away to avoid political embarrassment.

        • Leto Muad’dib

          It is. I completely agree. I hope very, very much that he would resign.

        • Curious George

          And if he doesn’t? What do you suggest Hungarians do?

          • Leto Muad’dib

            There’s going to be a big pressure on him from within Fidesz and he would. I think the question is how to avoid this would be a triumph of MSZP and LMP.

          • Anonymous

            Leto, surely Schmitt Pal has been allowed to remain so long because Fidesz need him for their own purposes?

            That this might backfire and tarnish the reputation of Fidesz is another matter.

          • Pete H.

            It’s already a triumph for the opposition. He should been asked to resign when this first came to light.

          • Leto Muad’dib

            Then it couldn’t be done. Now it has to be done.

          • Curious George

            @Leto – You’re basically asking Hungarians to trust The Party! This appalling decision has tarnished the reputation of Hungary & the integrity of Semmelweiss (indeed, all graduates of Hungarian universities), and Fidesz is more concerned about how whether this would benefit MSZP & LMP. That’s why I said before that Hungarians avoid taking responsibility, and don’t really care about what happens to their country. In terms of priorities, it’s party before country, and individual before party.
            You didn’t answer my question – What should Hungarians/Semmelweiss graduates do to redeem their integrity?

          • Leto Muad’dib

            @CG:
            I haven’t asked Hungarians to trust “the Party”.

            “What should Hungarians/Semmelweiss graduates do to redeem their integrity?”

            There are many forms of protest. Everyone can protest against Schmitt in a democracy, and Hungary is one, within the limits of the law.

          • Curious George

            @Leto – At least the university council understood the implications and acted responsibly to limit the damage to Hungary & educational institutions in general, even when the panel failed to be clear.

          • Leto Muad’dib

            @CG:

            I’m glad about that. And the panel was clear enough but unfortunately Mr. Schmitt didn’t take hint.

          • Szabad-Ember

            @Leto

            “There are many forms of protest. Everyone can protest against Schmitt in a democracy”

            Yes, but they can’t get rid of him, because he wasn’t elected by the people, he was hand-picked by Orbán. This is like Gyucsány’s position in 2006; people protested, but to no avail. The difference is that at least Gyurcsány was elected, and could be removed at the next election. Presidents in Hungary should be elected, and there should be a recall mechanism.

  • Koermendi

    Does Semmelweiss University have no alumni association? Graduates whose diplomas will now be questioned as cut-and-paste, cash-in-an-envelope “bunda” work, have the greatest stake in ensuring that exculpation is denied. They should lead any protests.

  • Francois

    We have a few people graduated from Semmelweiss working in our office and I am afraid that they will hear poor jokes about their diplomas for a long, long time.

  • Punisher

    Wow! What a relief! I feel much better for little pal,he looks so brilliant….so, if he is not a plagiarist, I can also make the following statements :

    Charles Manson is not a murderer, he is just a nice little guy we dont understand.
    The soviets didnt enslave and murder Hungarians, they just borrowed Hungary for a while.
    Is not lying, is bullshiting, and bullshiting “never hurt anyone” right?

    After this, I am convinced this is a country of retards.

  • luzerorszag

    Black is white, Right is wrong. Sour is sweet.

    • spectator

      Why it surprises you?
      As time goes, the whole Fidesz KDMP charade resembles more and more to some religious sect.

      “I believe in them, that’s why they are right, that’s why always true, what they say, etc.”

      As opposed to: “this is true, that’s why I believe it, etc.”.

      There is no reason, it goes on pure faith, no questions asked.
      One more thing: it has been built up by design, this isn’t just happened, it was meant to be like this. Just look at the sequence of events, there are telltale signs all the way.

      Welcome in the barn, my little lamb…!

  • Laz

    I can understand his thinking why he is staying in office he probably think that people in the county’s recent history got away with far more serious crimes…..

  • Frankly Franklin

    If you do not keep the buffoons in office with scandals boiling in their pots, you have no leverage to work easily with. Keep the cheater there and keep him in front of the nation, insulting everyone who honestly makes their living. This works to the benefit of the opposition.

    IN the mean time, start looking at the rest of Fidesz’s degrees… if trhere is a pattern, then perhaps you know why they will not release the secret police files, hmm?

    Diplomas for informants! Amnesty for snitches! Have a method ion your madness and let everyone else simply be mad.

  • Anonymous

    Was his degree from Semmelweiss U.?

    • Leto Muad’dib

      No, it was a separate institution at that time, called “Testnevelési Egyetem” (Sports University). That became part of Semmelweiss about 8 years later.

  • Budapest Entrepreneur

    This is a complete insult to the hard working scholars in Hungary. Hungarian Academic of Science is boiling but does not dare to make a statement. Neither do Semmelweis University heads who will have their academic institution questioned time and time again. I will certainly lobby for my country s refusal of any degree taken at this now corrupt and utterly failed university. I feel so sorry for all those students and scholars who worked hard and honestly to pass their degrees. This will as well again send a message to the younger generation…..Its ok to cheat!!! Thats why this country is in such a mess. Cheating from political left to political right. Hungarians stand up for your fellow country men and not for corrupt politicians. Do not defend a party on their political agenda defend them on their actions and make sure these actions are well founded and above all you must understand that a opposition no matter what they are is important for a democratic system to function. We need to have as much people as possible to question the actions or the ruling party no matter if its right or left. Stand up for transparency of the tax money you and give these crazy politicians. Politicians swear in public to work for their people and not in their own interests……are they?

    • Szabad-Ember

      Semmelweis University is not to blame, just the part of it that used to be Schmitt’s university, the University of Physical Education.

      From what I’ve seen, there are many athletes all over the world who received diplomas that were probably not deserved. Schmitt was an athlete, first and foremost, and is obviously not a serious intellectual. On the other hand, I’ve met non-athletes who probably hired someone else to write their papers and take their tests. George W. Bush got an MBA from Harvard.

      • Budapest Entrepreneur

        Its from this Uni he got hit title, isnt it?
        Yesterday they did the right thing! Now its up to Mr P to take the right decision.

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