Defense of unetical and illegal ‘tradition’ undermine Montenegrin educational and legal framework

On Monday, 8 July 2019, the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) submitted to the management of the University of Montenegro (UoM) Proposal to determine violation of academic integrity by the Associate Professor of the Law Faculty of the University of Montenegro, Bojana Lakicevic-Djuranovic and appropriate sanctioning. Also, a criminal charge was submitted to the competent Basic State Prosecutor’s Office in Podgorica. The CCE expects the competent investigative and university bodies to act efficiently given that it is a simple case.

The CCE underlines that Bojana Lakicevic Djuranovic published paper under her name after the issue of plagiarism was places within Montenegrin public discourse, after the amendments to the Law on Higher Education and Criminal Code, which establish clear definition of plagiarism, link with higher education as well as with the provisions of the Criminal Code, which is significantly advanced compared to the others in the region in the area of sanctioning this crime. Also, the paper was published the eve of the adoption of announced Law on Academic Integrity. However, it seems that over all these prevails the impunity of the plagiarists within the academic community who also have powerful protectors.

In this context, although deserving condemnation, the statement of the former President of Scientific committee of UoM, prof. Vladimir Pesic, who defends indefensible is not surprising. We shall not discuss the motives of such an approach.

But, for the the public, it’s worth recalling facts. Article 10 of the Law on Academic Integrity defines plagiarism as ‘the appropriating  another author’s paper or part of that author’s paper, other essential scientific findings or their parts, hypotheses, theories, methods, data obtained by scientific research without indication of the author, or the implementation of another similar actions by presenting them as his/her own authentic work, in order to obtain personal benefits’. Article 11 of this Law further explains: ‘Plagiarism forms are: direct plagiarism, self-plagiarism and paraphrasing without reference.’ This article further states: ‘Direct plagiarism is copying part of the text or the entire text, methods, ideas, algorithms, images , a graph from another author, without quotation marks and quotations in a percentage that is prescribed by a special act of the institution as the one for which the procedure of verification is initiated before the Ethical Board.’

The Criminal Code, Chapter XXI – Criminal offenses against intellectual property, proscribes in Article 233: ‘… (1) Any person who under his name or any other name, publishes in whole or in part, places into circulation copies of another person’s copyrighted work or performance or otherwise publicly discloses someone else’s copyrighted work or performance, shall be fined or sentenced to imprisonment of up to three years; (2) Any person who under his name, in whole or in part publishes someone else’s copyrighted work on the basis of which he is elected to a scientific or scientific-teaching title, shall be fined or sentenced to imprisonment of up to four years …’

The Montenegrin legislative framework does not contain the terms ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ plagiarism, nor ‘academic’ or ‘non-academic’, which is now creatively introduced by the former President of the Scientific Committee. Laws do not recognize many other categories that he is talking about, and that plagiarism does not exist when a professor copies a student’s thesis that is publicly defended, properly registered in the library and permanently accessible to the public. When talking about the need for further education about this issue, prof. Pesic should start with himself.

Especially concerning is the following Pesic’s statement: ‘Graduate thesis for specialist studies and graduate theses were often used by professors who usually have taken certain parts, summarised, shortened and then participated in conferences with that, etc. It was part of a tradition and inertia that existed in this region.’ The existence of this unethical and illegal ‘tradition’ is exactly what prof. Pesic had to particularly criticize, and not to take it as part of an attempt to find mitigating circumstances for what Lakicevic Djuranovic did. This revealed that he does not deserve the position of President of the Scientific Committee, although his dismissal from that position was controversial and part of other clashes at the UoM.

However, this Pesic’s statement worth its weight in gold– it also provides a response to the deafening silence that comes from Montenegrin academic community. How many professors have done the same thing that was done by Lakicevic Djuranovic? We call on students to compare their papers with the papers of their professors, maybe we will have some new interesting cases there. We urge the Prosecution to investigate professor Pesic’s indications that Lakicevic Djuranovic case is not isolated, that there is a settled practice of such behaviour and according to his information and evidence act in prosecuting those persons. We want to believe that prof. Pesic will be a dilligent witness and that he will as scientist substantiate publicly stated general allegations before the Prosecution.

Hence, it is undisputable that on the basis of what we already have as evidence, Lakicevic Djuranovic has to face the sanctions – disciplinary, criminal or misdemeanour, depending on the institutions that apply the regulations that we refer and to whom we have prosecuted this.

That’s why it is the inappropriate statement of the President of the Court of Honour at UoM and Vice-Rector Boris Vukicevic who is trying to disclaim his responsibility for the case Lakicevic Djuranovic. If he is not ready to do his job indiscriminately and dedicatedly, it would be fairer to immediately resign. The Ministry of Education has clearly indicated who is currently responsible to act in the case od Lakicevic Djuranovic when it comes to ethical principles and academic integrity, and UoM cannot evade the responsibility without causing enormous damage to itself. We also expect the Rector Danilo Nikolic to start doing his job even when it brings him inconvenience, which he has so far avoided. Otherwise, all legal improvements are useless in the absence of those who can and know how to apply them.

Daliborka Uljarevic, Executive Director