Paul Negrut, president of the Baptist Union in Romania, as well as the president of Emanuel University of Oradea (my alma mater) is being accused of plagiarism. I know Bro. Paul. He was my professor for several courses during my five years at Emanuel. He is the pastor who married me and Corina in 2002.
The course in question is Christian Ethics. I took this class in 2004 and found it to be one of the most exciting classes during my time in Romania. Bro. Paul is being accused of plagiarism, because the printed course for his Christian Ethics class has his name on the front, though several chapters are translated word-for-word from an English book called Moral Choices by Scott Rae, apparently without footnotes or a bibliography.
Let me clarify a few things from my own experience at Emanuel. Bro. Paul did not teach the printed course as his own. It was clear in my studying the written course that it had been translated from English. I didn’t think anything about it, because Bro. Paul never claimed the course as his own. Those chapters from Moral Choices were translated in order that the Romanians would be able to have the material in their own language. I am not 100% sure, but I seem to recall Bro. Paul giving Scott Rae credit for some of the material, at least verbally. The name and the book ring a bell.
It’s true that the printed course did not have footnotes. Neither did it specify where the information came from. This should not have happened. But I doubt Bro. Paul ever even saw the course. He certainly didn’t use it when he taught the class. He used his own notes, current events, and occasionally quoted other authors.
Whether or not Bro. Paul can be accused of plagiarism is up to the courts to decide. From my own experience as a student at Emanuel, I render a different verdict. Plagiarism? No. Unintentional negligence? Yes… unfortunately.
[[Updated]] The Associated Baptist Press is now reporting on this situation. Their story is here. There are a few factual errors that glare out at me from this reporting. The most obvious one is speaking of Bro. Paul’s course as a “book” used for six years that was “published in 1999.” The Ethics course was never a book, in the proper sense, and was never published. It was a collection of materials placed into a notebook without a spine. Students could not “buy” the course. We had to go to the library and make copies of the materials needed for the exam in order to have study material. This is not unusual in Romania. Most courses were done this way, since few of the books needed were translated into Romanian.
It seems odd to me that in all of these press reports, no one is interviewing students who actually took the class! The motivation of the “group of Baptist believers” in question is not to obtain justice of Scott Rae or to demand better academic accountability, but to discredit and demean Paul Negrut. If they were truly motivated by academic integrity, they would not be anonymous.
[[UPDATED - March 5, 2007]] Baptist Press has quoted me at length regarding this issue. The story, which includes the findings of the North American board for Emanuel, can be read here.