IHSA plagiarism scandal

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The IHSA plagiarism scandal occured in the 2013 IHSA State Series, which used questions that were plagiarized. When that plagiarism was reported, the IHSA (specifically Ron McGraw) fired the person who reported the plagiarism. The editors who approved the plagiarism were rehired, and they continue to work as editors for the IHSA.

Background

Each year, the IHSA contracts the writing of questions for their tournament to a head editor. Since 2003, that editor has been Sister John Baricevic, who was the coach at Mater Dei High School in Breese, Illinois from 1987 to 1999. The head editor contracts with other writers and assistant editors, subject to the approval of the IHSA Assistant Executive Director in charge of Scholastic Bowl, a position held since 2004 by Ron McGraw.

Plagiarism

In 2013, David Reinstein was an assistant editor for the IHSA question set, in charge of mathematics and overall "proofreading". In the course of doing his job, he found the following instances of plagiarism:

Regionals

The following quotes appeared (as of the time of proofreading) at http://www.apa.org/research/action/glossary.aspx:

  • "Analytic psychology: A branch of psychology that views the person as a constellation of compensatory internal forces in a dynamic balance."
  • "Cognitive processes: Higher mental processes such as attention, language use, memory, perception, problem solving, and thinking"
  • "Abnormal psychology: The area of psychological investigation concerned with understanding the nature of individual pathologies of mind, mood, and behavior."

The following bonus appeared in round 3 of IHSA Regionals. This is quoted as it was given in the version of the set distributed to Regionals hosts.

Name these types or categories or branches of psychology.
[A] This branch of psychology, originated by Jung [yoong], views the person as a complex collection of compensatory internal forces in a dynamic balance.
Answer: [Accept either. “Jungian psychology” is wrong.]
analytic psychology
analytical psychology
[B] This psychology studies higher mental processessuch as attention, language use, memory, perception, problem solving, and thinking.
Answer: cognitive psychology
[C] This area of psychological investigation is concerned with understanding the nature of individual pathologies of mind, mood, and behavior.
Answer: [Accept either.]
abnormal psychology
psychopathology

Sectionals

The following quotes appear in the glossary of Biology, 10th edition, by Sylvia S. Mader. They also appear in a set of flashcards published as a companion to that book, available at http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/dl/free/0073525502/930161/Chapter_05.html.

  • "tight junction: junction between cells when adjacent plasma membrane proteins join to form an impermeable barrier"
  • "adhesion junction: junction between cells in which the adjacent plasma membranes do not touch but are held together by intercellular filaments attached to buttonlike thickenings"
  • "gap junction: junction between cells formed by the joining of two adjacent plasma membranes; it lends strength and allows ions, sugars, and small molecules to pass between cells"

The following bonus appeared in round 4 of IHSA Sectionals. This is quoted as it was given in the version of the set distributed to Sectionals hosts.

Some animal cells have junction proteins that join them to other cells of the same tissue. Identify these types of junctions.
[A] This names the junction between cells when adjacent plasma membrane proteins join to form an impermeable barrier. It is commonly found in cells of the kidney and intestine.
Answer: tight junction
[B] This names the junction between cells in which the adjacent plasma membranes do not touch, but are held together by intercellular filaments attached to button-like thickenings. These junctions are the most common type of intercellular junction between skin cells.
Answer: [Accept either.]
adhesion junction
adheren junction
[C] This names the junction allowing cells to communicate as well as lending strength and allowing ions, sugars, and small molecules to pass between cells. These junctions are important in heart and smooth muscle as they permit a flow of ions between them to allow cells to contract as a unit.
Answer: gap junction

State

The following quote appeared (as of the time of proofreading) at http://www.cliffsnotes.com/sciences/sociology/social-groups-and-organizations/organizational-models:

"Max Weber noted that modern Western society has necessitated a certain type of formal organization: bureaucracy. According to Weber, who believed that bureaucracy is the most efficient form of organization possible, the essential characteristics of a bureaucracy include…Bureaucratic authority resting in various offices or positions, not in individuals….Unlike Weber, Karl Marx argued that capitalists use bureaucracies to exploit the working class. Marx predicted that bureaucracies would eventually disappear in a communist (classless) society, and that collectivist organizations, in which supervisors and workers function as equals"

The following is a draft of a question that appeared in round 8 of IHSA State. This is the version sent to the expected group of moderators for IHSA State; based on firsthand observation at IHSA State, the version actually read there does not differ significantly.

Max Weber [VAY-ber] noted that modern Western society necessitated this specific type of formal organization, one which Weber held was the most efficient form of organization possible.
[A] Name this type of organization in which authority rests in various offices or positions, not in individuals, and which is often associated with red tape.
Answer: bureaucracy [Accept variations like “bureaucratic”.]
[B] Weber wrote that before bureaucracies were established, power would go to people with this quality. He wrote that people withthis quality seem to have exceptional powers inaccessible to the ordinary person.
Answer: [Accept variations like “charismatic”]
charisma
[C] This man predicted that bureaucracies would disappear in a classless society and would be replaced by collectivist organizations in which supervisors and workers functioned as equals.
Answer: Karl Heinrich Marx


Response

During the "proofreading" process before the questions were finalized, Reinstein communicated the Sectional question above and many other cases of plagiarism to Sister John Baricevic. The other cases were rewritten to not be plagiarized, although throughout the process, Baricevic maintained that there was no plagiarism, merely similar phrasing, and that the latter was not a problem. The Sectional question was kept even though the problem was pointed out while the questions were still being edited.

On Sunday, March 3, 2013, the day before IHSA Regionals, Reinstein noticed the problem with the Regional question and reported it to Baricevic. She said that she did not believe it was plagiarism but would discuss the issue with McGraw after the tournament ended.

IHSA Regionals took place on Monday, March 4. IHSA Sectionals took place on Saturday, March 8. Each of these tournaments used one plagiarized question as described above.

During the evening of Monday, March 11, Baricevic sent an email to Reinstein suggesting that Reinstein and fellow IHSA State moderator Tom Egan had somehow plagiarized each other because some of their suggested question edits of the same questions had left in some of the same parts of the original questions.

On the evening of Tuesday, March 12, Reinstein sent a message to Ron McGraw, the IHSA Assistant Executive Director in charge of Scholastic Bowl, copying Baricevic, New Trier athletic director Randy Oberembt, New Trier activities director and IHSA Scholastic Bowl Advisory Committee member Stacy Kolack, New Trier principal Tim Dohrer, and Egan. The message objectively laid out the plagiarism issues and requested that McGraw "make a determination as to whether or not this behavior will be tolerated in the future". McGraw responded by telling Reinstein that "It has become my opinion that your personal needs and opinions appear to outweigh the needs and the good of IHSA Scholastic Bowl in general" and stating that "I expect common respect be demonstrated by all members of the team of moderators for each other", implying that Reinstein was not respectful. You can see the email and decide for yourself if Reinstein was not respectful. In a strongly worded message, McGraw fired Reinstein from moderating at IHSA State and from writing and editing questions for the IHSA.

The plagiarized State question was noticed by a moderator on Thursday, March 14. Knowing what had happened to Reinstein, the moderator did not tell anybody about the problem, and the question was used.

On Friday, March 15, 2013, the IHSA State tournament was held using at least one plagiarized question, and without the services of a moderator whom the IHSA had fired for reporting plagiarism, though the IHSA would later claim he was fired for his argumentative and unprofessional approach.

Aftermath

For 2014, according to Baricevic, one of the plagiarists "has been invited [to write again] but with an added level of 'checking'". At one point she said the plagiarized questions were by a total of two writers; at another time, she said a total of three writers plagiarized. (At no point did she actually use the word "plagiarism" or any form thereof to describe the plagiarism.) McGraw has claimed that none of the plagiarists were hired again.

A few emails went back and forth between Reinstein, McGraw, Baricevic, and occasionally others. In one of them, Sister John claimed "No one in the process approved of using plagiarized material," contradicting McGraw's statement that "Neither Sister John or I believe that none of the questions were plagiarized. We believe that 3 questions were plagiarized." McGraw announced to Reinstein that "I plan to ignore any future communication from you…I have no reason and am under no obligation to do so."

Many former question writers refused to write again for the IHSA due in whole or in part to the IHSA's practice of firing a whistleblower. Many former officials refused to officiate at IHSA Regionals, Sectionals, and State due to the same. Several longtime Sectional hosts refused to host again.

At no point has anyone representing the IHSA admitted that it was wrong to fire a whistleblower or apologized for doing so.

In April 2014, the Illinois House of Representatives passed HR 895, which called for hearings about many aspects of the IHSA. While explaining the resolution on the House floor, sponsor Linda Chapa LaVia stated: "The Issue with Scholastic Bowl is enough to make you want to say, 'What is going on there?' So let's fire the person who reported it, and the General Assembly doesn't need to know."

In response to Chapa LaVia's statements about the Scholastic Bowl plagiarism, the IHSA stated that computer programs were implemented to detect plagiarized questions. The IHSA did not address the fact that plagiarism had actually occurred or its firing of the person who reported the plagiarism.

The hearing was held on May 20, 2014.