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Wednesday, April 9,2014

Already read that

Author Lingg Brewer says ‘quibble,’ experts say ‘plagiarism’

by Lawrence Cosentino
An odd thing happened on the way to reviewing “Dreams Gone Wrong,” former State Rep. Lingg Brewer’s book about gamblers and campus unrest at MSU in the 1960s. (Click here for the review)

Several passages in Brewer’s book, which was published last year, also appear, almost verbatim, in “Campus Wars,” historian Kenneth Heineman’s 1994 history of 1960s unrest at universities across the nation.

The passages aren’t hard to spot. For most of the book, Brewer uses a tough, conversational private-eye prose style well suited to the main thread of his story, about gambling and murder: “Jill was tall, blond, beautiful.”

But when he shifts to the background layer of his saga, describing campus unrest at MSU during the Vietnam War, a strangely sober, professorial syntax sneaks in. Here is the book’s description of a speech by MSU President Walter Adams: “Afterwards, the sobbing World War II veteran, no longer able to criticize the war in terms of cold economics, delivered an impassioned moral appeal for peace.”

The same sentence appears, almost verbatim, in “Campus Wars.” How close are they? Brewer substituted “afterwards” for “afterward.”

There are at least 15 more sentences and paragraphs in “Dreams Gone Wrong” that also appear in Heineman’s book, usually with small cosmetic changes. Heineman: “Radio reports that a mob had gathered outside city hall brought out a few hundred curious student and faculty spectators.” Brewer: Ditto, only without the word “radio” and “outside” instead of “at.”

One passage uses quotation marks and attributes it to Heineman. The others don’t.

Brewer said the issue is a “quibble.”

“That’s a small part of the book,” Brewer said. “No doubt that I drew some stuff with Heineman, but I start (the story) out so much ahead of Heineman, and I finish so much after Heineman and I dig so much deeper. If that’s your only concern, I’ll plead guilty to it. The part that Heineman wrote about is minor and limited compared to everything else in the book. You’re choking on a gnat and swallowing a camel.”

Brewer said he wrote the book himself, without assistants.

“I went through a variety of editors and they didn’t get much done with it,” he said. Brewer’s book was self-published.

Brewer, 69, has held several state offices, including Ingham County clerk, Ingham County commissioner and state representative for the 68th District. He was a co-founder of the Impression 5 Science Museum and has worked at a variety of jobs, including real estate developer. He attended MSU in the 1960s. He said he wasn’t aware of MSU’s and President John Hannah’s role in the Vietman War at the time, and consequently had to rely on Heineman’s and his own independent research to tell that part of the story.

Heineman, a professor of history and department chairman at Angelo State University who studied at MSU as an undergraduate, said the similarities between Brewer’s book and his are “interesting.”

“I have passed this along to NYU Press,” Heineman said in an email, referring to his book’s publisher.

David Stowe, a professor of English and religious studies at MSU and former director of the American Studies program, doesn’t think it’s a quibble. Stowe looked at a list of 17 compared passages from Brewer’s and Heineman’s books

“That is definitely big-time plagiarism!” he wrote in an email. “A couple years ago I was part of an academic integrity panel that investigated something similar in a dissertation and recommended that a Ph.D. be withdrawn from the offending scholar.”

Plagiarism is an academic, not a legal, term. Stowe referred me to the American Historical Association’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct. The statement explains that plagiarism take many forms, but “the clearest abuse is the use of another’s language without quotation marks and citations.”

The “real penalty for plagiarism,” according to the AHA statement, “is the abhorrence of the community of scholars.”

Stephen Arch, an English professor at MSU, wrote me in an email that “there is certainly something fishy going on, given the evidence you’ve provided.”

Arch said there are often “gray areas,” such as repetition of syntax and repeated parallel structures, that help identify plagiarism, but this case appears clearer than that.

“Substantial repetition of the kind you appear to document is key,” Arch wrote. If the passages I sent him are correctly quoted, Arch added, he would “fail an advanced undergraduate student from a class and dismiss a graduate student from the University for not adequately drawing a line between his/her work and his/her source materials. For plagiarism.”

Julie Linderleaf, an English teacher at J.W. Sexton High School, read the same passages and called them “blatant plagiarism.”

“Traditionally, plagiarism is any five words in a row used from a previously published source,” Linderleaf wrote in an email. “In places, I can see where Brewer only used four words and changed the rest. As an English teacher, that alone makes me cringe!”

The Brewer/Heineman “quibble” is poised to enter the annals of public education in Lansing. Linderleaf said she will use the juxtaposed passages as a source when teaching plagiarism and source citing in her classroom.

 Side by side

Here are comparisons of passages from former state Rep. Lingg Brewer’s book “Dreams Gone Wrong” with Kenneth J. Heineman’s earlier book “Campus Wars: The Peace Movement at American State Universities in the Vietnam Era.”


Heineman p. 21
— Envisioning a student population of 100,000 by 1970, Hannah undertook, in the early 1960s, the construction of the world's largest on-campus residential housing complex.

Brewer p. 56 — Envisioning a bigger and better university, with a student population of 100,000 by 1970, Hannah undertook, in the early 1950s, the construction of the world's largest undergraduate oncampus housing complex.

• • • • • • • •

Heineman p. 264-65 — State police troopers then deployed on the roof of Jacobson’s [sic] department store, training their rifles on the street below. Thousands of students, careful not to set foot on Grand River Avenue, the free fire zone, glared silently at the troopers. Suddenly, a student threw something at Jacobsen's, causing the crowd to gasp and the troopers to stiffen. A trooper, crouching on the roof, put aside his gun and tossed the frisbee back towards the campus. The blockade was over and the crowd sensed that the war at home had also ended.

Brewer p. 253 — The State Police then deployed sharpshooters on the roof of Jacobson’s [sic] Department Store, where they trained their rifles on the crowd below. Thousands of students carefully stayed off Grand River Avenue and glared silently at the troopers. Suddenly, one of the students threw something upward toward those on the roof, causing the crowd to gasp. The troopers stiffened. One, crouching on the roof, set aside his weapon and caught it. He smiled and threw the frisbee back toward the sender across the street on campus. The rage subsided; the worst of the blockade was over.

• • • • • • • •

Heineman p. 133 — Alarmed at the growing number of antiwar activists and the mass of leftist literature flooding the campus, YAF, the Michigan branch of the American Legion, and the MSU chapter of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, which dominated the student government, collected 15,872 student, faculty, and community residents’ signatures on a petition supporting Johnson’s Vietnam policy.

Brewer p. 181 — Alarmed at the growing number of antiwar activists, the YAF, the American Legion, and the MSU chapter of Delta Tau Delta social fraternity that dominated student government collected over fifteen thousand signatures of students, faculty, and community residents on a petition supporting Johnson’s Vietnam policy.

• • • • • • • •

Heineman p. 131 — It seemed that few MSU students and faculty, and Americans in general, were interested in Vietnam, trusting Johnson to champion democracy at home and abroad.

Brewer p. 178-79 — The feeling among attendees was that neither students and faculty nor Americans in general were interested.They trusted President Johnson to advance democracy at home and abroad.

• • • • • • • •

Heineman p. 51 — Humphrey crushed the petition between his trembling hands and sputtered that he had been a foe of Communist conspirators long before Johnson had become president.

Brewer p. 180 — According to historian Kenneth Heineman, “Humphrey crushed the petition between trembling hands and sputtered that he had been a foe of Communist conspirators long before Johnson had become president.”

• • • • • • • •

Heineman p. 133 — With winter approaching, the 50,000 people who assembled in Washington realized that the struggle for peace would be a long, tiring process.

Brewer p. 181 — With the winter of 1965 approaching, the 50,000 people who assembled in Washington realized that the struggle was going to be long.

• • • • • • • •

Heineman p. 135 — By the third day of the protest, two hundred students rallied around Beaumont Tower and the protest had become a major story for the state’s leading newspaper and television stations.

Brewer p. 182 — On the third day, three hundred students rallied around Beaumont Tower, and the protest became a major story for the state’s leading newspapers and television stations.

• • • • • • • •

Heineman p. 135 — The fallout from the Ramparts’ bombshell blanketed MSU. The Free Press, the New York Times, and the three national television networks descended upon Cowles House.

Brewer p. 182 — The fallout from the magazine article was enormous. The Detroit Free Press, The New York Times, and the three television networks descended upon Cowles House.

• • • • • • • •

Heineman p. 191 — But in the course of his tenure as interim president, Adams changed the game. He adroitly confronted radicals with biting satire and tried to isolate them from the “moderate” student body.

Brewer p. 242 — But as interim president, Adams changed the game. He confronted the radicals with biting and trenchant wit and tried to either convert them or isolate them from the more reasonable in the antiwar movement.

• • • • • • • •
Heineman p. 191-192
— Adams showed up at every demonstration, defused potentially violent situations, eschewed police force, and successfully stole the show.

Brewer p. 242 — He showed up at every demonstration, defused potentially violent situations, and did it without bringing in the police.

• • • • • • • •

Heineman. p.192 — Angered and frustrated, SDSers, instead of engaging Adams in rational dialogue, countered urbanity with profanity, screaming, “Eat shit Adams! Fucking sonofabitch!”

Brewer. p. 243 — Angered and frustrated SDS-ers, instead of engaging Adams in dialogue, responded with such profundities as “Eat shit, Adams” and “fucking son of a bitch.”

• • • • • • • •
Heineman p. 237 — On the evening of Feb. 17, 1970, 250 students assembled in the MSU Union to discuss ways of protesting the convictions of the Chicago Seven, the antiwar activists who had disrupted the 1968 Democratic Convention.

Brewer p. 245 — On the evening of Feb. 17, 1970, 250 students assembled in the MSU Union to discuss ways of protesting the convictions of the Chicago Seven.

• • • • • • • •

Heineman p. 237 — The MSU Weathermen, led by Brad Lang, showed up in leather jackets and carried six-foot-long iron fence posts. Although it was only seventeen degrees outside, the protesters marched over to the East Lansing City Hall singing (to the Beatles’ “Come Together”) “Trash Together:”

Brewer p. 245 — Back at the Union, the SDS Weatherman faction were [sic] dressed in black leather and carried six foot long steel fence posts. In February Michigan weather, the protesters marched over to the East Lansing City Hall singing to the Beatles’ “Come Together” with their own lyrics, “Trash Together:”

• • • • • • • •

Heineman p. 259 On the first anniversary of the Kent State slayings, 3,000 MSU students peacefully protested against the war.

Brewer p. 247 On the first anniversary of the Kent State killings, 3,000 MSU students peacefully protested against the war.

• • • • • • • •

Heineman p. 260 Standing in front of Demonstration Hall, seventy Vietnam veterans pinned their combat medals on a dummy corpse which symbolized the MSU students who had died in Vietnam.

Brewer p. 247 Seventy Vietnam veterans pinned their combat medals on a dummy corpse which symbolized the MSU students who had died in Vietnam.

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