Monica Crowley is one of those right-wing pundits who seems to have a permanent sneer on her face, especially when she is attacking the already marginalized. So naturally she was tapped for a position in the Trump administration as “senior director of strategic communications at the National Security Council”. But it turns out that she is a serial plagiarizer who has lifted verbatim, without citation, entire passages from other sources not only for her articles but even for her doctoral thesis for Columbia University. This seems to have been a little too much for even an administration that disdains ethics as much as the incoming one does and despite some earlier statements of support from them, she has withdrawn from the position, presumably to ‘spend more time with her family’.
Why do people plagiarize? As a teacher I have of course encountered examples of this and the reasons are varied. The most benign reason is just sloppiness as can occur when one is taking notes for a research project and copies passages to be inserted into your text with the intention of including proper citations later. But after some considerable time, one forgets that the notes are not of your own words and, if the writing style is similar to your own, you may think that the words and ideas were your own. This is why when I write and copy text from another source, I immediately put it in quotes and add the citation below to remind me later where the passage came from. I also tell students that as far as possible, they should use direct quotes rather than paraphrases because that minimizes the risk of accidentally plagiarizing.
But Crowley’s examples of plagiarism are pretty glaring and cannot be put down to occasional sloppiness. This was too systematic and extensive to be an accident. While it has cost her the Trump administration job, she will likely continue to be a pestilential presence in the media.
Columbia University has not said what they will do about her thesis, saying that such investigations are always kept confidential. But plagiarism in a doctoral thesis is taken very seriously, far more so than articles written in the popular media, and I can imagine that there is a serious analysis going on by academic committees to see if her actions merit withdrawing of the degree. A lot will depend on the power and influence of her thesis advisor and committee members and their attitude towards her because that is the nature of university politics.