By P Ramasamy
Contrary to what was said by UiTM Vice-Chancellor Professor Emeritus Hassan Said, nobody is accusing the university of plagiarism. The issue is more complex than this. There are allegations the university’s library uploaded 15 theses of former students of the MBA Executive programme of the University of Bath-Malaysian Institute of Management.
Since the theses are the copyright/intellectual property rights of this twinning programme, it was dishonest on the part of the UiTM library to have these items in its digital library.
My question to Hassan is simply this: how did UiTM allow for these theses to be uploaded in its library without written permission from the students or the institutions concerned?
Copyright rules are clear about intellectual property rights. What is more disconcerting is the fact that theses in UiTM’s library were used as if they were produced by students of this university.
Hassan has countered, saying there was no plagiarism involved. Yes, he is right, but we are not talking about plagiarism which refers to instances where students copy the work of others and pass them off as their own.
Violation of intellectual property rights comes in various forms. Outright plagiarism or to put it crudely, copying, is the lowest and most abused form. However in the case of UiTM, it uploaded the theses from the University of Bath-Malaysian Institute of Management, giving the false impression that these were the product of UiTM scholars.
Hassan should not be too defensive. He should not divert the issue by denying that plagiarism was involved in any way. He must confront the issue i.e. why UiTM, a public university, engaged in intellectual dishonesty, or in other words, “stole” the works of another university and passed it off as their own.
I hope Hassan as the person occupying the highest post in UiTM, takes the matter beyond preliminary investigations and offers more conclusive findings.
As an academician himself, he ought to know that intellectual dishonesty and copyright infringements are serious issues that have the potential to tarnish the reputation of institutions of higher learning.
Meanwhile I suggest that the students whose theses were uploaded to UiTM’s digital library allegedly without their permission, initiative some kind of legal action to get to the bottom of the matter.
No academic institution worthy of its name should be allowed to get away with intellectual dishonesty.
Public universities in Malaysia funded by taxpayers’ contributions should be made accountable to the public.
P Ramasamy is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang.