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Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024
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George Washington professor files Copyright Claims Board complaint against American University for alleged plagiarism

“It’s simply the most grievous academic sin”

Robert Kramer, a professor at George Washington University, filed a complaint with the Copyright Claims Board (CCB) against American University for plagiarism and copyright infringement. 

The complaint, which was filed Feb. 28 with the Copyright Claims Board, alleges that the University plagiarized Kramer’s paper, “From Skillset to Mindset: A New Paradigm for Leader Development” which was published in 2016 and copyrighted in 2017. According to the abstract, the document details “a new paradigm for how leaders should be trained and developed.”

The Copyright Claims Board is, “available to resolve copyright disputes of a relatively low economic value as an efficient, less expensive alternative to federal court,” according to its website.

Kramer claims a portion of the paper from page 41 was used for the AU’s website on Action Learning for Federal Agencies certificate program. 

Kramer wrote under days four through five of his curriculum, “By the end of day five, the teams have engaged in the necessary steps to fully implement the transformative action learning model and have developed a plan for implementation over the next 4–6 months.”

On the ALFA website, it says under days four through five, “By the end of day five, the Action Learning teams have engaged in the necessary steps to fully implement the Action Learning model and have developed a plan for implementation over the next 4-6 months.”

Kramer is seeking $30,000 in damages for “relief for his losses,” which is the maximum amount a complaint filed with the CCB can request.. According to the complaint, he is “unable to market [his] leader development program to Federal agencies in Washington DC because American University uses its weight and imprimatur to market its own program, based almost entirely on [his] copyrighted article.”

Previously, Kramer filed a complaint against AU professor Robert Tobias due to his being listed as the creator of the ALFA program, but he has since dropped this complaint after the CCB dismissed it. Kramer also said that he and Tobias are good friends. Kramer offered to help Tobias create a program similar to ALFA, but they were unable to agree on a salary and the program was not pursued, Kramer said.

Kramer emphasized that he has “no desire to harm the [University’s] reputation.” In the past, Kramer worked and “was very happy” at AU, winning awards for his teaching in the School of Public Affairs and for programs he developed for the University. 

Although Kramer has already reached out to news organizations such as The Washington Post, he says that he would be willing to settle the dispute quietly outside of the public eye, so long as he receives proper compensation.

“I don’t even care if they don’t take it off their website,” Kramer said. “I have no objection to that, I simply want to be compensated.” 

Following Kramer’s complaint for copyright infringement, the CCB will now determine whether or not the claim is reasonable. If found reasonable, AU will have a chance to respond and choose to either follow through with the CCB or waive the process and force the case to district court. 

Kramer said he is willing to settle the dispute in district court, although he would prefer not to. He says he does not “need an apology,” just the money he believes he is owed. 

“It’s a matter of principle,” Kramer said. “No author will tolerate a university plagiarizing from their work. It’s simply the worst possible, the most grievous, academic sin.” 

Kramer added that the University contradicts itself: holding students to high plagiarism standards without holding itself accountable.

“I can not emphasize enough how serious a charge of plagiarism is in an academic community,” Kramer said. “That’s why it was deeply painful for me to see my own work on the AU website.”

“Our general counsel is said to have been mentioned in another complaint, but as of [April 3], she has not been served with any formal complaint by the CCB,” said University spokesperson Jasmine Pelaez in a statement to The Eagle. 

This article was edited by Abigail Pritchard, Jordan Young and Nina Heller. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis, Leta Lattin, Luna Jinks and Stella Guzik.

Correction: A previous version of this article categorized the complaint as a lawsuit and wrote that Kramer was “suing” American University. The language has since been updated to reflect the nature of the complaint. This article has also been updated to better reflect the purpose of the CCB. A previous version of this article also said Kramer had “[found] no evidence against Tobias.” The article now reads that the CCB dismissed the complaint. 

tdavis@theeagleonline.com and sskolnick@theeagleonline.com 


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