Brigham Young University President Merrill J. Bateman has sent a letter to a neo-conservative scholar denying that he plagiarized her work in his inaugural address. An anonymous BYU faculty member made that charge last week.
"Apologies are due for your being drawn into accusations made against me regarding my inaugural speech which quoted from your fine article," Bateman wrote to Gertrude Himmelfarb, an emeritus history professor at City University of New York.Bateman wrote that the "plagiarism charge is inaccurate" as he cited a summary of the main ideas from her article, "The Christian University: A Call to Counterrevolution," published in the January edition of First Things, an academic journal. Bateman included a copy of his April 25 inaugural address with the letter.
Bateman declined to answer questions about Tuesday's statement, the second he has issued on the matter. University spokesman Brent Harker said he wasn't sure why Bateman publicly readdressed the issue Tuesday. "All I can say is maybe the spirit is prompting him."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns BYU. Bateman was the church's presiding bishop until his appointment as university president.
An anonymous BYU faculty member accused Bateman of lifting ideas and phrases for his inaugural address from a speech Him-mel-farb made at Baylor University last year and that was later printed in First Things.
"It's not a word-for-word lifting of text, but it is a sequential summary of another person's ideas and writing without attribution," the faculty member wrote in the September issue of Sunstone magazine. Bateman also declined to be interviewed last week and issued a statement saying, "If there was an inadvertent error, it was in phraseology, not in attempting to take credit for someone else's ideas."
Bateman said in his earlier statement that he agrees with the ideas Himmelfarb expressed in her speech and in preparing his own address "tapped a large body of literature on secularization of the university in which concepts expressed by Himmelfarb are widely shared."
In his letter dated Aug. 19, Bateman said a reference citing Himmelfarb's work was included in the paragraph that paraphrased the relevant material from the First Things article.
"Unfortunately, a set of quotation marks was included at the same point to highlight the slogan "everything is political" and the placement of the citation appears to refer only to the slogan when it refers to the preceding paraphrased sentences in that paragraph," he wrote. He also said one citation was inadvertently omitted three sentences later.
"However, there was no intent to plagiarize," Bateman said.
The Associated Press contacted Himmelfarb at her home in Washington D.C. last week, but she decline to get involved in the controversy.
"I'd better stay out of this," she said.
Bateman's letter thanked Himmelfarb for the way in which she responded to the AP reporter. "Again, I am sorry for any inconvenience that this episode might have caused you," he concluded.