Is it life-threatening to investigate plagiarism?

Yes, it can be. One fresh case.

Emilia Șercan is an investigative journalist (for 22 years) working as an assistant professor (for 7 years) at University of Bucharest, Faculty of Journalism and Communication Sciences, Department of Journalism. First time I communicated with her in Brno at the conference Plagiarism across Europe and Beyond 2017. There I learnt about the spectrum of her activities and the power of her personality. She is fearless, steady and unceasing fighter against academic misconduct[1] in Romania.

On factual basis she has held the mirror up to high-ranking government and public sector officials in the matter of their academic misconduct. She mercilessly uncovers plagiarism, corruption, nepotism and other ills in the higher education sector. Her tireless effort has brought positive changes in the real life of academic sector.

“The problem in Romania is that people in all important leadership positions, in all institutions, parties, secret services, administration and even in the academia have plagiarised Ph.D.’s. No one wants a real change. You can’t imagine how hard the battle is here and what kind of obstacles they try to find just not to change things and not to be in position to pay for this,” said E. Șercan.

She points out the plagiarism of high-ranking public, political, military and security services officials in her book FABRICA DE DOCTORATE sau Cum se surpa fundamentele unei natii (2017, ISBN 978-973-50-5776-3, 210 pages); in English: DOCTORAL FACTORY or How to Destroy Fundamentals of a Nation.

For the past 4 years, she has been constantly publishing investigations on plagiarised theses defended both in military and civil universities. The list of people who have plagiarised their Ph.D. theses, according to her research, includes the deputy prime-minister, two ministers of Internal Affairs, a Defence minister, an Education minister, a Health minister, the first deputy-in-chief to the Romanian Prosecutor General, the chief of the Judicial Inspection, politicians, judges, rectors, secret service generals and the police quaestor. The details, concrete names and positions of her investigations are documented here.

She has constantly been a target for intimidation and denigration campaigns, however, she has continued to do her job with respect for the truth, serving solely public interest. The death threat that she received on the evening of 15 April by a SMS message represents yet another attempt to hinder her disclosures.

 „We are sending this message with the purpose of preventing what will follow, it all depends on you. Stop all actions that you are currently undertaking… if you don’t want ordeal to follow (…)[2]. ”

The Romanian police was notified about this. The man who sent the death threats to Emilia Șercan was found on 24 April – he is a police officer, employed by the Police Academy, about which she wrote and had an extensive series of investigations underway. 

The case was transferred on 25 April from the District 4th Attorney Office and the Bucharest Police Office to the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), which is competent to investigate cases involving police officers who have committed certain offenses. DNA is a special unit within the Attorney General Office, specialized in corruption cases. The police officer who threatened her admitted that he was the one who sent her that message, but he said to the prosecutor that it was not his own initiative and he did it because he was asked by the Rector of the Police Academy, who is a police questor and full professor and PhD supervisor (this rank is equivalent to the general in the army), with whom he had a special relationship. The Rector of the Police Academy, Adrian Iacob, devised the threats along with the Deputy Rector, Mihail Petrica Marcoci, who was associate professor, police chief-commissioner and the spokesperson of the Police Academy. 

On 25 March, E. Șercan revealed that Adrian Iacob, the Rector of the Police Academy, plagiarised more than 70% of his PhD thesis. According to the Romanian law, if a PhD degree is withdrawn for plagiarism, that person can’t be a professor anymore – so Iacob may lose his entire academic career because of her revelations. The police officer who threatened her was not arrested, he was placed under judicial control. The Rector and the Deputy Rector of the Police Academy had been indicted by prosecutors on charges of „instigation to blackmail“ and they have resign. Both are placed under judicial control.

Sources:

Șercan, E., Personal communication

The earlier version of this article previously appeared in the Newsletter of European Network for Academic Integrity


Notes:
[1] Any action or attempted action that undermines academic integrity and may result in an unfair academic advantage or disadvantage for any member of the academic community or wider society
[2] A part of the threat message was censored by Șercan, who wanted to protect her family.

By Július Kravjar
Member of the board of European Network for Academic Integrity

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8 thoughts on “Is it life-threatening to investigate plagiarism?”

  1. The so called “threatening” was a setup designed to get rid of the excellent professor Adrian Iacob. There was no threat, all is made up! (Otherwise she will have published the messages. )
    The stakes are high and somebody wants these doctoral schools dissolved so other universities will accomodate and assimilate this type of doctoral studies.
    Be advised readers, in Romanian law plagiarism is not defined and by law these people have not done anything wrong.
    The alleged “investigations” are attempts to create bad names for some persons and universities.

  2. These “friendly” comments are just a more subtle form of that threatening SMS message and are just a part of the constantly harassment campaign, of the constantly compromising campaign against me that started more than two years ago. I’m still standing and I’m still continuing my job because these kind of reaction just show me that I am doing the right thing.

  3. “She is fearless, steady and unceasing fighter against academic misconduct[1] in Romania.“

    Anybody would be fearless if financed properly (but obscurely)!

    Read more here: https://www.dcnews.ro/emilia-ercan-in-lacrimi-a-parasit-emisiunea-profesioni-tii-a-eugeniei-voda-de-la-tvr-1-video_538072.html

    Hey, editorial staff, get your information right! You are portraying this sorry person like a heroine! She is just a promoter of anti-government protests and she is affiliated to shady publications …

  4. Ha ha!

    Her graduation paper is copied!

    https://www.radiometafora.ro/2017/05/26/document-jurnalista-specializata-in-denuntarea-plagiatelor-si-a-copiat-lucrarea-de-licenta-scris-de-traian-deleanuin-ziarul-turnul-sfatului-din-sibiu-postat-de-razvan-dumitrescu-realizator-t/

    The truth is somewhat different, what she does is she hackles people on SMS, e-mail and showing up to thesis public presentation events and then runs and complaims so she would gain attention from her fellow anti-Romania accolytes. :-)))))))))

  5. What is funnier is that she has been accused of plagiarism and there is solid proof!

    https://www.ziarulevenimentul.ro/stiri/actualitate/emilia-sercan-acuzata-de-plagiat-jurnalista-i-ar-fi-copiat-lucrarea-de-licenta–217389459.html

    Instead of digging into such pety things she should instead practice real journalism!

    She is getting paid by foreign embassies in their “kompromat” demarches to discredit key Romanian public/political figures.

    It is appaling to see her actually getting attention! Sic!

    1. Emilia Sercan is the best example that the dominant state system in Romania, that relies on fake personalities, on impostors and on functional illiterates, is easily shaken by a vertical and honest journalist. And Emilia Sercan is a very honest and vertical journalist. The commentaries to this article show how deeply Emilia Sercan scattered the intelligence establishment when the establishment tried to acquire prestige through intellectual theft and plagiarism. The above commentary, abusively ”signed” with my name and giving a link to the page of ”Mihai Viteazu” National Academy for Informations, with which I have nothing in common, is the living proof that Emilia Sercan hurts! And this is a good feeling for me and should be a reason for content for Emilia Sercan. All my best to her and my entire admiration and support to the excellent investigative and reporting work she is doing in Romania.