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When the Vice-Chancellor cheats: a look at Monash’s biggest scandal.

We all know that assignment cover sheet, the one you have to sign with every submitted piece of uni work. The one where you legally promise you didn’t cheat, you didn’t copy, you didn’t collaborate with your pals nor did you use your buddy’s work in the year ahead.  

Well, how many times have you signed that sheet and lied? 

Zero? 

Congratulations; you’re a saint.  

Once?  

Mate, you’re in trouble. Straight to the academic counsellor for an interrogation about your disgraceful act. You’ll fail that assignment for sure.  

Twice? 

Oh! The audacity. A real degenerate here. What would your parents think? Back to the counsellor. No remorse this time. That unit you’re doing? You’ve failed it. Get ready to do it again Happy Gilmore.  

Three times?  

Bloody hell. The indecency. The nerve of you. Say au revoir to Monash University and your pretty little degree. Say hello to the Macca’s chip fryer. Three strikes and you’re out. 

We don’t play nice with people who plagiarise. Zero tolerance policy. Monash is not the place for you if you’re a cheater.

Well, that is of course if you’re not the former Vice-Chancellor (VC) of Monash University, David Robinson.  

David Robinson was the VC – the university’s highest position – in 2002 when it surfaced that he had massively plagiarised in not one, not two, but three of his publications from the ‘70s and ‘80s. This rocked Monash, the story made the front page of every Australian newspaper. 

David Robinson was appointed to the top job at the start of 1997. For five years he ruled Australia’s largest university that straddled four different continents. His previous employer apparently knew of his plagiarism, but he neglected to inform Monash. 

At the start of 2002, David was eagerly reappointed another five-year term by the Monash Council. Only a few months later, the rumours started. It was alleged he had plagiarised twice when he was in his 30s. This he admitted, and the Monash Council were in damage control. The Council was desperate to save face, losing a Vice-Chancellor would be scandalous. They held an emergency meeting and passed a vote of confidence in David Robinson’s keeping his position.  

He was safe. 

The dust had settled, the situation was bad, but Monash could control it. 

That is of course, until a few weeks later. When an academic at Monash found more damning evidence of a different plagiarism incident. This time, it was proven he had copied 20 entire lines, word for word, in a book he published in ’76.  

20 lines! That’s at least half a page! Maybe things were easier before bloody Turnitin.  

This was too much for Monash to manage, so he agreed to leave his position. The university can still stand by its three-strike policy with (some) dignity.  

Remember, if you cheat, the truth will always catch up to you! David Robinson’s career was meant to be peaking, but instead, it was ruined.  

Actually, no, sorry, scratch that. Three years later, he was appointed to the top job at the Victorian Education Research Network, a $40 million body which represents the state’s nine universities.  

So, don’t worry fellow students. If you get caught cheating, the sky is the limit.  

Daniel Target

The author Daniel Target

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