Donald Cuccioletta: What Happened After He Was Caught

Historians in the News

Thomas Bartlett and Scott Smallwood, in the Chronicle of Higher Ed (4-1-05):

Discovering that someone copied is just the beginning. When a professor is suspected of plagiarizing another scholar's work, the matter usually is assigned to an investigative committee, reports are written, and some sanction may be imposed. Meanwhile, the victim who brought the matter to everyone's attention is often left wondering whether it was worth the hassle.

In a special report in December, The Chronicle reported on several suspected plagiarists: a cultural geographer, a political scientist, a biologist, and two historians. In some of those cases, universities have since concluded investigations and punished the plagiarists. Two have lost their jobs, another has been removed from the classroom. But not every academic plagiarist is shown the door. In one case, for instance, a university committee agreed that plagiarism had occurred but decided that no action was necessary.

For several years, Donald Cuccioletta continued to teach at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh even though another university 60 miles away in Canada had let his contract expire after charges of plagiarism surfaced.

Now the copying has caught up with him.

In 2001 Mr. Cuccioletta edited a book called L'Américanité et les Amériques. In a chapter he wrote for the book, the first few pages appear to be copied from the introduction to a 1964 book, Do the Americas Have a Common History?, by Lewis Hanke, a Columbia University historian.

When another history professor at the University of Quebec discovered the similarities in 2002, Mr. Cuccioletta was not rehired. He had been a part-time lecturer there for 10 years. Nevertheless, he kept working as an adjunct professor of history at Plattsburgh, where he has taught on and off for the past seven years. And in 2004 he was named interim director of the university's new Institute on Quebec Studies.

In the fall, administrators at Plattsburgh learned of the alleged plagiarism from a brief article in Le Devoir, a Montreal newspaper.

A misconduct committee investigated the charges and "basically, his contract was not extended after the fall-2004 semester," says Keith Tyo, executive assistant to Plattsburgh's president. Mr. Cuccioletta was removed as interim director, although he was allowed to continue to teach his courses for the fall. He is now not employed by the university in any capacity, Mr. Tyo says.

"We were surprised by the situation when we learned of it," he says. "But I think we acted appropriately."

Mr. Tyo says the university was also reviewing its procedures and policies regarding academic misconduct -- a review that had been planned before news of Mr. Cuccioletta's borrowings broke.

Attempts to reach Mr. Cuccioletta were unsuccessful. In December he told The Chronicle that he had admitted his mistake, was troubled by it, and chalked it up to confusion caused by writing many articles at one time.


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