According to Dutch newspaper NRC, Van den Boom, who left the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC) very recently after serving as its interim dean for a period of time, committed plagiarism several times in previously published works.
After the merger advice was issued, Ana Uribe Sandoval, the Chairwoman of ESHCC’s Faculty Council, along with several other members of the Council, contacted EUR’s Executive Board, both because the Council felt the advice was too biased and because it contained several passages that had been copied from other sources. In all, there were nearly thirty sentences that were copied verbatim, without attribution. Three sentences do come with a citation, but were quoted verbatim and without any quotation marks.
The passages were copied verbatim from publications by the World Economic Forum, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the website of the University of California at Berkeley. In all, more than six hundred words (making up approximately 5 per cent of the entire advice) were copied.
EUR press officer Sandra van Beek stated that the Executive Board didn’t think the lack of citations would have any consequences. According to the Board, the quoted sources are sources that allow ‘fair use’, and no attribution would be necessary. This being the case, the Executive Board rejected the Faculty Council’s request to have the Academic Integrity Committee look into the matter, said Uribe Sandoval.
Nevertheless, the Board withdrew the first draft of the recommendation. A new draft of the recommendation, which can be found on the university’s intranet, still contains the copied passages, but they have now been provided with citations. Van Beek says that the footnotes were added ‘to be absolutely complete’. No announcements were made regarding the revisions to the text.
The Dutch code of conduct for scientific integrity does not apply to internal documents, integrity expert Lex Bouter assumes. “You could have moral issues with this, but formally it is more complicated. If the allegation of plagiarism is correct, Van den Boom did not operate very elegantly and also quite clumsily. But I can understand that the Executive Board does not make a very big deal out of it, and still wants to have it repaired. I don’t think sanctions are appropriate in this case.”
Uribe Sandoval said the was ‘shocked’ by the news that Van den Boom had been guilty of plagiarism before, but that she was ‘not surprised’, considering her experience with the merger recommendation. “We hold our students and ourselves to a high academic standard, particularly when it comes to plagiarism. We expect our managers to hold themselves to that same standard.”
The conclusion drawn in the advice has proven controversial at ESHCC. According to Van den Boom, the faculty’s brightest future will involve a merger with the Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (ESSB). Three-quarters of the faculty’s employees indicated that they oppose this conclusion.
Last week, Van den Boom rather unexpectedly withdrew from the deanship, saying she was leaving because she had completed her assignment (drawing up the advice). According to press officer Van Beek, the plagiarism issue played no part in Van den Boom’s sudden departure. The press officer also stated that the Executive Board is as yet unable to answer the question as to what kind of consequences the issue will have for the ESHCC-ESSB merger plan.
For multiple days and in multiple ways, EM has tried to get in touch with Van den Boom to get a comment on this story, without any success.