Popular ASU Professor Whitaker Demoted After Plagiarism

Kaila White, Arizona Republic, July 12, 2015

Popular Arizona State University faculty member Matthew Whitaker has been demoted after the university found “significant issues with the content” of his recent book.

It is the second plagiarism-related incident in four years involving Whitaker, a former full professor who now is an associate professor.

Whitaker, 44, is a well-known speaker and author who focuses on African-American history, civil rights and racial equality. He declined to comment Friday.

Matthew Whitaker

Matthew Whitaker

In May, he won a $268,800 contract for his consulting company to provide “cultural consciousness training” for the Phoenix Police Department.

Whitaker, an Arizona native, was an ASU Foundation professor of history and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at ASU.

He was demoted June 26 to an associate professor and co-director of the center, according to an e-mail ASU interim University Provost Mark Searle sent to select faculty this week.

Whitaker will also lose at least $20,000 per year as a result of the demotion.

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His salary will be reduced by $10,000, to $153,530, starting with the new academic year this fall, and moving from director to co-director of the center will reduce his stipend from $20,000 to $10,000, according to ASU.

It is unclear whether he also will lose funding from the ASU Foundation.

“After concerns were raised about his book ‘Peace Be Still: Modern Black America from World War II to Barack Obama’ an investigation ensued in keeping with ASU policy. Results of that investigation identified significant issues with the content of the aforementioned book,” Searle wrote in the e-mail.

Searle’s e-mail included a letter from Whitaker in which he admitted to mistakes and apologized to his colleagues.

“My critics have revealed numerous mistakes that I made. It is painful to recognize that I was so careless as to fail to properly paraphrase and cite sources, despite my reverence and respect for the work of others in this field,” Whitaker wrote.

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Whitaker’s book has received criticism since early 2014, when a blogger began comparing the book to websites and other texts. An Inside Higher Ed article verified the comparisons.

Among the comparisons are a passage on affirmative action taken nearly word for word from Infoplease.com, and full, verbatim sentences about the television show “The Jeffersons” from the Archive of American Television website. The archive is cited, but the passages are not in quotation marks.

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He was the subject of a similar incident in 2011, when several ASU faculty members accused him of plagiarism. A university investigation determined that Whitaker had not committed “systematic or substantial” plagiarism, but ASU officials said they were concerned about “occasional carelessness.”

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In 2011, when Whitaker was promoted from associate professor to full professor, 10 ASU faculty members reported concerns about plagiarism to ASU President Michael Crow.

During the subsequent investigation of Whitaker’s work, a committee appointed by the university to examine the matter found paragraphs in a book that had been taken from Wikipedia, and parts of a speech he gave that matched or were similar to several paragraphs in a Washington Post story.

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