Skip to main content

"Dottore" - A Primer on Romania's Plagiarism Scandals

It is not enough that Romania's politicians are smug, incompetent, and generally reprehensible, but their pathetic lack of self-awareness also feeds a seemingly overpowering impulse for outrageous narcissism.

It's as if they were saying, "Step aside, Trump, let us show you how it's done."

The phenomenon can be summed up in the wisdom of an old Romanian proverb, 'Prostul nu e prost destul, daca nu e si fudul'. It basically means, "a fool is not enough a fool,  if he's not a blowhard too."

Which brings me to the matter at hand.

I've never directly addressed Romania's plagiarism scandals. In part, maybe, because if that was the worst thing our politicians were doing to this country, I wouldn't have other things to write about. But also because I always saw it as symptomatic of a more deeply rooted cultural issue.

For added context, for non-Romanian readers, think of the Asian parents stereotype. From an early age kids are pressured into getting high grades at school. Nota zece, (a 10, the equivalent of an A+, in Romania) is the single measure of success available to a child during his formative years. It is valued above all else and cherished as if it were the only goal worth pursuing in a young person's life. This attitude might be changing with some of the newer generations, but the current crop of political leaders, parliamentarians, and bureaucrats (of which there are many), certainly grew up in this cultural environment.

In and of itself, there's nothing wrong with the pursuit of excellence, even early on, but this is not really a discussion about academic achievement.

This is about power and prestige.

In Romanian politics the party designates its movers and shakers through political appointments in key ministries and positions. It is not based on merit - at least not in the way you or I might define it.  To be fair, this is not a symptom exclusive to Romania's political class, but educated Romanians tend to be critical thinkers highly attuned to the nuances of language, so it is difficult to ignore, especially when it is obvious that "[these people] couldn’t have a PhD in a correct and proper way”.

The outlook, growing up, is that only very smart people make it to the top (legitimately). A PhD, then, is the ultimate 'very smart person' stamp of approval. But, as you can imagine, it doesn't make any difference if you can't grasp simple macroeconomic concepts so long as you're part of a system where a rubber stamp goes a lot further than your actual ability.

But this mentality goes back even further, to the time of lords and boyars

Romania is a country where wealth and social status are respected, maybe even feared, but intellect is rather revered. People here have always valued wisdom and intelligence (not that they are necessarily correlated) as qualities that set someone apart from the rest. This mentality has lingered and, in part, remodeled itself into a pursuit of scholarly credentials, which also serves as a legitimizing factor for the undue power and influence granted to these buffoons.

It is really the only explanation for the disproportionate amount of 'doctors' polluting Romania's political landscape. As a former president once said about a former prime minister, "when you're a Doctor of Law, you really are somebody..."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this is just a matter of social pressure, nor that the perpetrators are, in a twisted way, victims of their cultural upbringing. The truth is they are just a bunch of assholes. I think we can all agree that assholes often do what they do just because they think they can get away with it.

Until they don't.

- Victor Ponta, the reviled former PM (whom the aforementioned president was referring to), wanted a PhD in addition to his law degree, so he copied extensively, without attributing multiple passages in his thesis.
- Florentin Pandele, mayor of Voluntari, and husband of Gabriela Firea, the mayor of Bucharest, enrolled in the National Defense University where he was awarded two doctorates in subjects completed unrelated to his undergraduate studies. He copied a third of his PhD thesis.
- Petre Toba, former minister of interior, copied over 250 of the 390 pages of his doctorate from various works.
- Nine ministers, including the current PM, Mihai Tudose, relinquished their PhDs when the cat came out of the bag over the rampant plagiarism in the upper echelons of political power.

In case you're wondering, it's not that every Romanian university is completely lacking in standards for academic integrity, it's that certain universities are completely lacking in these standards. Chiefly among these are the Carol 1 National Defense University, a public institution, and Spiru Haret, a private university.  That said, the standards of academic integrity in Romania are hardly stringent. When broaching the subject, friends of mine, graduates of prestigious Romanian universities, told me they never had to sign any sort of academic integrity/anti-plagiarism document. Meanwhile, in Canadian universities, students fill out and sign these forms for every course that requires essay writing, throughout their entire university career.

And Romanians are surprised that none of the country's universities can crack the world's Top 100. 



What, me copy?







Comments

Popular posts from this blog

10 Reasons Why Romania is Better Than America

Really? Yes, really. Let me count the ways.

In America you can get everything you've ever dreamed of: GameBoy, Sega Genesis, plants that look like faces, and more.  Maybe if you work really hard long hours at the job you hate (but that you tell everybody you love lest you appear to be a miserable person), you can even get a flat panel home theater TV that takes up half your basement (on credit, of course). Awesomeness!!
In America you can always be sure to be on top of the latest fad, such as devil sticks or Tamagochi and you will be first to read bestsellers like The DaVinci Code and Fifty Shades of Crap literature. Basically there are thousands of ways of feeling accomplished -or pretending that you are - you just need to be there to catch all these wonderful trends on time!

I know what you're thinking, how can Romania possibly top all that considering America is also the land of Root beer floats and Antoine Dodson?

Everything's been done in America, that's why peopl…

Is Cluj The Best City On Earth?

It's a question I ask myself at times.

Let's put it this way; I've been around. Maybe not all around the world, but halway-ish maybe. Sailed the canals of Amsterdam, biked from one end of Paris to the other, took the train from Budapest to Berlin, drove the 405 in LA, and yeah, I even rode a hay cart back in the day. But other than enjoying all these forms of transportation, I got to enjoy the places I visited. I don't know about you, but when I visit a place I always ask myself,  'would I live here?' While the answer is often 'yes, why not', the only place I moved to was Cluj.

Cluj, how do I love thee, let me count the ways:

1. I love your smell. It's like earth, and air, and city. I will never forget my first day here, when I  walked out of the arrivals building at the airport and breathed in your smell. Spring. You're the city of eternal Spring. On a balmy day, it's what you smell like, even if it's December, or August.

2. I love your…

Are Romanian Women The Most Beautiful In The World?

More than once, I was asked to write about the beauty of Romanian women, but...

I have no words. Besides, I may be biased, but clearly it's a rhetorical question.

However, there is no shortage of Facebook pages dedicated to the subject.





Image: A typical Romanian woman, Madalina Ghenea.

10 Things Romania Does (A Bit) Differently - Part 1

A few days ago, after walking into a grocery store, I couldn't help noticing I was in a state of trepidation. The reason? I'd walked in with my gym bag, purposely avoiding the security guy at the entrance. I felt his eyes must be following me and that a loud, "Hey, you!" would ring out the moment I turned into an aisle.

It turns out that the longer you live somewhere, the more you get used to it. A truism, of course. What is not immediately apparent is that this isn't necessarily a good thing, especially when you find that you've become used to something you may have found, at some point in the past, in another place, entirely unacceptable.

This is why, now that I've crossed over the honeymoon period of my move to Romania, I find my enthusiasm for life here wanes when, for the 286th time, I  am forced to walk into a supermarket through the designated entrance point, even if an empty checkout is much closer and no less accessible. Then, upon entry, a grump…

10 More Reasons Romania is Better Than America

I get it. The US is special. I hate to say it, especially as a Canadian, but it is.

But it's mostly special because of the America that it used to be. The idea of America is special.

There was, once, an American Dream within the reach of any hard working man. It was a country that offered unprecedented freedoms and opportunities unmatched by any other. The great melting pot was about inclusion towards one common goal, it was not divisive, individualistic and driven by a Bergeron-esque vision of 'equality'. Assets were not based on decades-long lines of credit, and salaries kept up with cost of living increases. I could go on about 'the way things used to be' but you can look it all up if you're interested. If you live there, you should be.

The reality in America is different now.

Sure, it's still the land of plenty. But the plenty is not all good. Plenty of debt, plenty of poverty, plenty of obesity, plenty of civil unrest coupled with plenty of heavy-hand…

You Can't Plan a Romania Road Trip, But You Should Anyway

I started writing this post in September 2014, not long after coming back from vacation. I dropped it because I got sick of going through the hundreds of pictures we took just to pick the perfect ones for this post. But, like a seed once planted, it needs some water and the right conditions to flourish. In my case: an email from a reader, asking me about road-tripping through Romania, and the chance to lift this weight off my back. So here it is, a summary of one Romania road trip, from Cluj and back.



------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2,656 Kilometers.
188 Liters of gas.
2,919 RON.

That's more or less the tally for the Romania road trip I took with my roomie/wife Roxana. We could have booked an all-inclusive vacation to Greece, Turkey, or Bulgaria at about the same cost, but how could we resist a road trip? A unique waterfall, the 'tunnel of love', the best driving road in the world, Summer …

What I Learned About Driving In Romania

I get it now. I understand Romanian drivers and their follies. It's something I thought would never happen. All it took to shape me into a Romanian road rage machine was one month of driving around Cluj and a 400 km round trip. I'm kidding about the rage part.

The idea of driving in Cluj was intimidating. Last time I'd driven manual shift was almost ten years ago when a co-worker asked me to drive her and her newly purchased, Pontiac Firefly home because she had no idea how to do it. So of course I stalled that little bastard all over the place. Little surprise that the idea of driving along busy and narrow European streets was unappealing - especially after years of driving automatic on wide, North American roads.

But I managed. Stalled an average of once per trip during the first week, and then a couple of times in the second week, and now, a little over a month later, I sometimes stall at stoplights when I forget I'm driving stick and leave it in gear when I release…

Here Is Why Romania's Future Is Bright

The festival is only in its second edition, but following last year's inaugural event, Electric Castle has stirred up enough buzz to attract visitors from beyond Romania's borders. Walking around the festival grounds I had the impression that every other group was comprised of foreigners speaking Hungarian, English, German, or French. And judging by the license plates in the parking lots, every county in Romania was well represented. While there's plenty to be said about the artists and the music, there's something else I want to discuss in this post.

When you think "music festival", the image that comes to mind is that of overly excited youth on a drug and alcohol infused rampage, laying waste to everything in their path. Maybe it has something to do with the way festivals like to promote themselves; these are basically the images that stand out on most 'Official Aftermovie' videos from major music festivals. But obviously the experience is defined b…

The Cluj Guide to Dining Out

Note: This is a 2016 update to the post originally written in 2012. 

Back in 2012, Toulouse was the only place in town to serve a halfway decent hamburger. How things have changed. There's been a veritable burger revolution and you'll be hard pressed to find bistro-style restaurants that don't offer the king of sandwiches. There are also several new, and very good, additions to the city's fine dining roster. But maybe the most positive change is in the market itself. Patrons have become more discerning about their options, there is a deeper appreciation for consistency, and, as a result, restaurants have responded with an elevated level of service and quality overall.
But there's still no authentic Mexican...


So, with no particular order in mind, let's get into it, shall we?

Via- The simple name denotes understated excellence. At least that's how I look at it now. Over the past couple of years, Via has cemented itself as one of my favourite Cluj …

Rosia Montana - An Informed Reply

It's always a pleasure to see a new email message from somebody who's been reading this blog. In this case, the message came in from a reader who first contacted me last year. He moved to Canada quite a while ago and settled in the Northwest Territories. He wanted to respond to the previous post on Rosia Montana, but given the length of the reply, I've asked him to allow me to publish it as its own post. He asked me not to share his name, but outside of that, I'm copying it verbatim.

(Edit: In Romana mai jos)

Hello Matt,

Here we go again: Rosia Montana. I got involved in this project about four years ago. I had had phone interviews with radio stations in Bucharest; I published several articles in two or three magazines in Bucharest. I hosted, guided and loaded up with data and portable computer equipment one “Romanian explorer” as the Romanian media called her: Uca Marinescu. Perhaps the name rings a bell. Anyhow she never got back to me; there was no feedback, no follo…