News Story

Plagiarizing Professor to Be Slapped by MSU

Plagiarism uncovered by Mackinac Center; University used "fairly ridiculous" methods to dodge FOIA request for information about investigation

A Michigan State University professor accused of plagiarism by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy due to his published study on school consolidation has been found guilty of “research misconduct,” according to the Grand Rapids Press.

The newspaper reports that an MSU research integrity committee found that Sharif Shakrani had committed plagiarism in a 2010 school consolidation study and also three other articles published in 2008 and 2009 in MSU’s magazine “New Educator.” The newspaper says that no decision has yet been made regarding any sanctions Shakrani will face.

Michael Van Beek, the education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, uncovered the plagiarism while studying Shakrani’s work on consolidation of schools.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking emails and other details about the MSU internal investigation regarding Shakrani’s plagiarized study. MSU replied with a response that was full of redactions, including the redaction of one of Michigan Capitol Confidential’s own articles on Shakrani. The Center’s senior legal analyst characterized the school’s FOIA compliance as “fairly ridiculous.”

Shakrani’s study received a lot of publicity in the media, but plagiarism wasn’t the only concern.

A second MSU study on consolidation of schools was conducted by MSU professor David Arsen. He called Shakrani’s findings “wholly invalid,” and added other criticisms of the study’s methodology.

Shakrani said much of his work on the consolidation study was based upon the work of Syracuse professor William Duncombe. But when confronted with Shakrani’s work, Duncombe said he would not endorse Shakrani’s work because the research was “misapplied” and “oversimplified.”

The Mackinac Center initially revealed the concerns about Shakrani’s work in August of last year. Michigan Capitol Confidential noted in January that while charges of academic dishonesty against students can often be resolved within the collegiate term wherein the alleged violation took place, investigations of professors can take a full year.

“There is a definite double standard,” said Jonathan Bailey, a plagiarism consultant who researches content theft for PlagiarismToday in New Orleans, speaking to Michigan Capitol Confidential for an article posted on January 1. “The reason we see this double standard, these schools are much more intimidated going up against their staff than their students.  … With a professor, it’s much rarer and much more scandalous and embarrasses the school in a much grander way. There is a lot more feet dragging.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.