Over Winter Break an individual brought to our attention the fact that several of Sun columnist Amyn Bandali’s ’11 Ramblings columns contained passages that were identical or nearly identical to passages in Andrew Webb’s ’08 Confessions of a Mental Patient columns which appeared in The Sun from Fall 2006 to Fall 2007.
Sun policy prohibits all forms of plagiarism, and this is no exception. Bandali quit The Sun for unrelated reasons before we were made aware of this, but had he not, he would have certainly been fired. In a statement that can be read in its entirety on the Sun website, Bandali said, “I would like to apologize to The Cornell Sun and my readers for not citing these jokes. My intention before writing these columns was to honor my old friend Drew and to make people laugh.”
The writer is not solely responsible for this violation. We, the senior leadership of The Sun, should have provided more vigilant oversight, especially given the fact that Bandali and Webb attended high school together, and Bandali expressed a desire to honor Webb’s writing style and sense of humor. We did not anticipate that this would amount to outright plagiarism, but we apologize for not being thorough enough to prevent such a violation.
The Sun, as a student newspaper, necessarily has a short institutional memory. The editors directly responsible for overseeing Bandali’s work were first-semester freshman when Webb — who died in April 2010 — wrote his final column. As a result of this, the editors do not have the knowledge of past Sun content needed to catch this sort of thing before it goes to print.
While the lifted passages were only jokes in a humor column, not major academic research, any instance of plagiarism is reprehensible. Our goal in writing this letter is to not personally criticize Bandali, but rather to be forthcoming with our readers about this unfortunate oversight.
In addition to this letter, the online versions of Bandali’s columns will be appended with a note explaining the situation, as well as a link to this letter.
This is not the first time the Sun’s credibility has been undermined by its short institutional memory, and unfortunately it will probably not be the last. It is one of the risks of running an independently published student newspaper. But it is up to current and future Sun editors to make sure these instances are few and far between.