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Archive for Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Allegations of plagiarism spark changes in lecture series lineup

March 13, 2002

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The director of Kansas University's Dole Institute of Politics has rescinded an offer to have historian Doris Kearns Goodwin speak on campus this fall.

Richard Norton Smith said recent allegations of plagiarism in a Goodwin book led him to seek another speaker for the institute's first-ever Presidential Lecture Series on Nov. 3.

Smith said the decision was a hard one.

Goodwin advised Smith on his master's thesis at Harvard University, and the two have made frequent appearances together on "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."

"On a personal level, of course it was a difficult decision," Smith said. "On an institutional level, it was an easy decision. I'm well aware this is going to be a defining moment in the Dole Institute."

KU joins the University of Delaware and James Madison University in withdrawing speaking offers to Goodwin. Goodwin, a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board, has decided not to participate in this year's Pulitzer judging and has ceased her appearances on "News Hour."

The controversy centers around Goodwin's 1987 book, "The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys." Goodwin, 59, admitted in January she had agreed to a confidential monetary settlement with British author Lynne McTaggart. McTaggart had complained that several passages of Goodwin's book were nearly identical to parts of her 1983 book on Kathleen Kennedy.

Last month, Goodwin said her research assistants found other books that also included copied passages.

She said in her handwritten notes, passages from other books were intertwined with her own observations.

Goodwin is the latest in a string of best-selling historians who have come under scrutiny. At least five books by Stephen Ambrose have been cited for material lifted from other sources, and David McCullough said he misquoted Thomas Jefferson in "John Adams."

McCullough is scheduled to speak at the Dole Institute's Presidential Lecture Series Nov. 17. Historian Michael Beschloss will speak Nov. 10.

Smith said McCullough's misquotation was much different from the allegations against Goodwin, and that McCollough's speech will proceed as planned.

"One of the unfortunate aspects is the tendency to jump to the conclusion that everybody does it (plagiarize)," he said. "The only thing that has ever been alleged against David McCullough  and he readily admitted it  was that he misquoted Thomas Jefferson speaking on John Adams."

Smith has written books on such historical figures as George Washington, Thomas Dewey and Herbert Hoover and is working on a biography of Nelson Rockefeller. He said he hoped the plagiarism discussions won't hurt the public's impression that history can be both entertaining and accurate.

"It's a source of frustration if this rash of recent stories tend to enforce the old stereotypes that is has to be one or the other  that only academic historians can write accurate history," he said.

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