Ex-Kent State Ph.D-Candidate's Lawsuit: No Such Thing as 'Plagiarism' in First Drafts

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Carrie Pfeiffer-Fiala, 45, was a Ph.D candidate in education at Kent State and was one dissertation away from finishing her degree last fall when she got caught up in allegations of cheating. Now, she's suing the school for two counts of breach of contract, one count of negligent supervision, one count of defamation, and one count of unjust enrichment. In the suit filed earlier this month, she's asking the Ohio Court of Claims to reinstate her at Kent State or be given the degree, along with at least $25,000 in damages.

Last fall, Pfeiffer-Fiala turned in a 55-page draft of the first chapter of her dissertation that her professor deemed plagiarized. She explained to the professor "that she knew that citations were incomplete in the draft; plaintiff was not taking credit, and that any citation omissions were inadvertent would be addressed in the editing process and subsequent iterations towards a final submission... Defendant chose to knowingly, recklessly, or negligently disregard this knowledge and arbitrarily and/or maliciously accuse plaintiff of plagiarism even though both parties knew the document to be merely an incomplete first draft submission."

At an "academic hearing panel" in January, she presented "evidence of her innocence" but the panel "did not look at and ignored a majority" of it, the suit says. She was found to have plagiarized, lost her appeal to the school and withdraw. The school didn't follow the proper plagiarism guidelines causing her to miss out on the degree she had spent $50,000 to get, it says.

Pfeiffer-Fiala has a long C.V. listing her two other degrees from Kent State and dozens of her contributions in academic journals as well as her teaching career at the university and as an adjunct professor at Cleveland State, according to her website.

Read the suit here:

About The Author

Doug Brown

Doug Brown is a staff writer at Scene with a passion for public records laws and investigative reporting. A native of Ann Arbor, Mich., he has an M.A. in journalism from the Kent State University School of Journalism and Mass Communication and a B.A. in political science from Hiram College. Prior to joining Scene,...
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