Betsy DeVos, the billionaire ‘philanthropist’ that President Donald Trump has nominated to be Education Secretary, appears to have plagiarized several answers to questions posed during her confirmation hearing. So far DeVos’s complete lack of experience in the education sector or government, and the catastrophically failing school voucher system that she lobbied for in Michigan, has not disqualified her in the eyes of Republican senators. Perhaps committing the number one academic sin will, although we have no reason to be that optimistic.
DeVos blatantly lifted sections of text from a press release given by Vanita Gupta, the Obama Administration’s of the head Department of Justice civil rights division, an Obama Education Department website, and a federal law from the 1970s. None of these sources were cited.
When Senator Pat Murray (D-WA) posed a question about how the bullying of LGBT+ students in schools should be handled, DeVos wrote, “Every child deserves to attend school in a safe, supportive environment where they can learn, thrive, and grow.” This is suspiciously similar to Gupta’s press release in which she stated, “Every child deserves to attend school in a safe, supportive environment that allows them to thrive and grow.” DeVos added in the word “learn” – maybe to boost her educational credentials. The rest is identical.
DeVos was also questioned about her willingness to continue publicly listing schools under Title IX investigations, to which she replied, “Opening a complaint for investigation in no way implies that the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has made a determination about the merits of the complaint.” The Department of Education website says, “Opening a complaint for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination with regard to the merits of the complaint.”
It is unclear how relevant the statement is since the previous Department of Education was able to both acknowledge that opening an investigation does not imply any result of wrongdoing, and publish a list of ongoing investigations in the name of transparency.
Finally, DeVos lost patience in her 62-page response to Murray and didn’t bother to change a single word in the text she copied from a federal statute: the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights and assistant secretary must “make an annual report to the Secretary, the President, and the Congress summarizing the compliance and enforcement activities,” and are authorized “to collect or coordinate the collection of data necessary to ensure compliance with civil rights laws within the jurisdiction” of the civil rights office.”
The law is not cited nor are the pieces of text quoted.
Plagiarism is grounds for immediate expulsion from academia or higher education. Maybe DeVos, who has never worked in education and has no higher education beyond a business degree from Calvin College, is perhaps not aware of how serious a crime plagiarism is. Her theft of intellectual property is exploitation of others’ efforts in order to achieve a position of power that she is unqualified for. We should also note that DeVos is apparently unable to come up with anything satisfactory to say about civil rights and the rights of LGBT+ students so she has had to resort to copying from the Obama Administration. This is a sign that she is neither willing to champion all students’ rights nor willing to put in the significant amount of effort that heading a federal department demands.
Marisa completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin with a double major in creative writing and media studies. She is an advocate of progressive policies and focuses her interests on gender equality and preventing sexual and domestic violence.