Last Tuesday, Dutch newspaper NRC published an article in which Van den Boom was accused of committing plagiarism in her PhD dissertation, a scholarly article and several speeches she gave in her capacity as the University of Amsterdam’s Rector Magnificus. The recommendation on the future of the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC) Van den Boom issued while serving as the school’s interim dean also contained passages that had been copied without attribution.

Arjo Klamer, a Professor of the Economics of Art and Culture at ESHCC, feels that the accusations of plagiarism are inseparable from the debate on the recommendation that is currently being held at the faculty. Van den Boom proposed in her recommendation that the faculty merge with the Erasmus School of Behavioural and Social Sciences, a plan which has proven very unpopular with the faculty’s employees. “I strongly suspect that these allegations wouldn’t have been made public if people didn’t object to the merger plan so much,” says Klamer. “I don’t wish to point fingers, because I don’t want to join in the dirty game of accusing people by means of the media, but someone at my faculty is responsible for this. Clearly, people think this is the right way to fight a battle.”


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Trial by media

According to Klamer, the standard procedure in plagiarism cases was ‘violated’. “At universities, we have certain procedures we follow in the event of plagiarism. You report it to a committee, which can then investigate the matter. And you don’t publicise it until the person has been found guilty. Van den Boom was not granted that chance. She is having a trial by media.”

Moreover, Klamer feels that plagiarism in an advisory report does not constitute much of a problem. “The rules of academic integrity do not apply to a policy paper. It’s much more common in such papers for authors to borrow things. And in policy papers, it’s not all that relevant whether the ideas that are being presented are the author’s own.”


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“It could be said to be sloppy or careless,” Klamer adds, but he thinks it is nonsensical to question the value of the advisory report just because of Van den Boom’s laxity. “It’s absolutely fine for people to have a fierce debate on the recommendation, or to oppose the merger. But let’s not make things personal. Let’s just look at the contents of the report.”

It angers Klamer that the accusations levelled at Van den Boom have been publicised. “This type of character assassination is honestly completely beyond the pale. I find it terribly embarrassing that a community of which I’m part would stoop to this.”