swat history

The Mary Lyon Buildings

A response to Justin Kane's letter in The Daily Gazette | A response to The Phoenix's answers to my questions

Emails | Statement | Evidence


For those of you who would like to read the source material for the unfolding drama...

All of the emails sent by the Phoenix to me been deleted from SCCS's server at the request of Dee Conner, Editor-in-Chief of the Phoenix, as of 6:45 p.m., Tuesday, October 9. I have left emails that I composed to the Phoenix staff, phoenix@swarthmore.edu, online as they were sent to a group email address and do not constitute a 'personal correspondence.'

Email #1 - to Phoenix, initial query about article's sources
Email #2 - from Phoenix, denial of plagiarism
Email #3 - to Phoenix, presenting evidence of plagiarism
Email #4 - from Phoenix, "conducting a thorough internal investigation"
Email #5 - from Phoenix, "grave mistake", request for meeting
Email #6 - to Phoenix, arranging meeting time
Email #7 - from Phoenix, arranging meeting time
Email #8 - to Phoenix, arranging meeting time
-- meeting with Phoenix, Tuesday, 8:00 p.m., Parrish Parlours --
Email #9 - to Phoenix, request for admission of plagiarism
Email #10 - from Phoenix, conditional admission of plagiarism
Email #11 - to Phoenix, request for additional clarifications


The following statement is based largely on a response I gave to a Daily Gazette interview. It essentially summarizes both what has happened thus far and my case against The Phoenix:

In the September 27th edition of the Phoenix, Seth Sias wrote a sidebar entitled "The diabolical origins of ML," which was plagiarized from a webpage detailing ML history that I had written about ten months prior. I contacted the Phoenix about this (see the email correspondences) and eventually got them to admit that they had plagiarized it. Their first response, as seen in Dee's email, was that no offense had been committed ("I assure you that Seth did not commit it."). After I sent them a second email detailing all the instances where their article clearly mirrored mine and asked that they deny that it was plagiarism, they said that they were "taking this very seriously" and were "conducting a thorough internal investigation." The apparent result of their internal investigation was that "the Phoenix has indeed committed a grave mistake," but not plagiarism, as they made no reference to reference to it in either their second email or their meeting with me on last Tuesday evening.

On Tuesday night at 8:00 I met with Dee Conner (the editor-in-chief), Seth Sias (the 'author' of the plagiarized article), and a third person, Liz Wright (the managing editor). They entered the room together and had clearly prepared their comments ahead of time, so I chose not to respond to anything at that time, but rather wait until later in the evening to get my thoughts together and write the third email to them. When I inquired as to how the article could so closely resemble so many of the sentences I wrote without it being directly plagiarized, they told me that (to paraphrase) "sometimes an author will use the same sort of words and sentence structures that he read in another article when writing." It's important to note that at this point they were still denying that it was plagiarism; it wasn't until I emailed them later that night to tell them that I would take this to the deans that they admitted it had in fact been plagiarized.

Following the meeting I sent the Phoenix an email citing Swarthmore's definition of plagiarism and telling them that I would take the case to the Deans' Office if they did not specifically acknowledge that they had committed it in the next edition of the Phoenix.

It was at this point that they agreed that it was plagiarism - though I had presented no new evidence supporting my case to them, the threat of taking this to college officials caused them to suddenly change their mind. What this seems to say is that they knew that they had committed plagiarism and would not be able to defend their position in front of the deans, but had deliberately chosen not to admit this to me, instead opting to hope that I would drop the matter and let them get by with saying that they had "committed a grave mistake" in failing to cite me (a substantially less severe offense). Failing to admit one's mistake, I believe, is a highly unethical offense in and of itself, and is certainly not something the Phoenix should have done. Furthermore, in the apology the Phoenix cited two other references - Walton's "Swarthmore College: An Informal History" and a Mt. Holyoke website - as sources for the article, but has never substantiated how they were used in the writing. I believe they have done this in an attempt to make the article look like it was actually researched, rather than plagiarized, and thus diminish the importance of my article in what they wrote. Finally, their apology stated that their article "constituted an act of plagiarism, albeit unintentional." I do not believe that they can honestly claim that the plagiarism was 'unintentional' - the author intentionally plagiarized most of the information from my page, and the Phoenix intentionally published it; failure to recognize that they were plagiarizing it does not make the offense any less serious or excusable. The Phoenix has attempted to avoid culpability for this error at every turn, and thus has acted in a very unprofessional and unethical manner.

As of right now I have three questions that I would like The Phoenix to answer: I emailed these questions to The Phoenix on the afternoon of Monday, October 8.

Update: The Phoenix responded to these questions on October 10. You can read about it here.

Any questions, comments, or suggestions you have are welcome - dbing1@swarthmore.edu.


In October 4th's apology and correction, The Phoenix maintains that it used both my website, "as well as from the book 'Swarthmore College: An Informal History' by Richard J Walton and a biography of Mary Lyon found on the Mt. Holyoke website (http://www.mtholyoke.edu/marylyon)." I still find this claim to be very interesting - on Mt. Holyoke's Legacy of Mary Lyon page, there is no mention of the Mary Lyon School in Swarthmore (nor is there anywhere else on the website). Furthermore, the only reference to the Mary Lyon School in Walton's book occurs on page 55, where he states, "The College was able to purchase the former Mary Lyon School, which had just been vacated by the Navy," and cites the October 9, 1946 edition of The Phoenix for this information.

This leaves me wondering how exactly The Phoenix is currently able to claim that they utilized these sources in the writing of the article. It becomes even more interesting when you directly compare each sentence of the article with a sentence taken from what I wrote on my page. To illustrate this point, each sentence of the Phoenix article has been recopied here (highlighted in boldface), followed by a virtually equivalent sentence taken from my original writing (highlighted in italics):

"The diabolical origins of ML"
by Seth Sias

The building we all know as Mary Lyon is actually Mary Lyon 4, and since its construction in 1918, it has been a girls’ boarding school, a naval hospital, faculty housing and a dormitory.

In 1892 the Swarthmore Grammar School was founded in the buildings that now comprise PPR.
When Swat was first founded it included a college prep section; after this was discontinued in 1892 the Swarthmore Grammar School (the Prep School, what would later become PPR) was founded.

When the school went from coed to all-boys, due to a perceived lack of interest from girls, in 1913, Hadly Miller Crist and his wife, Frances Leavitt Crist, founded the Mary Lyon School.
In 1913, when the Preps went from co-ed to all-boys because of a perceived inability to attract female students, two of the teachers working there - Hadly Miller Crist and his wife Frances Leavitt Crist - left and founded the Mary Lyon School.

Mary Lyon, the school’s namesake, was a prominent nineteenth century educator who founded Mount Holyoke College in 1837.
The boarding school took its name, Mary Lyon, from a prominent 19th century female educator who founded Mount Holyoke College in 1837.

In 1943 Frances Miller Crist leased the school to the Navy, which used the space as a hospital.
In January 1943 Frances Miller Crist leased the school's buildings to the Navy so they could be used as a rehabilitation center;...

The school finished that academic year in New York, and then closed permanently.
...the school's staff and students moved to New York to finish the spring semester, then closed at the end of the academic year.

During the three years that Mary Lyon was a hospital, the Navy made alterations to the buildings and treated over 3,000 patients.
During the 38 months that the Navy ran the hospital, 3000 patients were treated and "extensive alterations to the original school buildings were made" to accommodate the Navy.

After the war, the Navy returned Mary Lyon to the Crist family.
After World War II the property was returned to the Crists,...

But without a school to run, they decided to sell the property to Swarthmore College in 1946.
...but as they no longer had any school to run, they sold the land and buildings to Swarthmore College in July 1946.

Due to the huge numbers of veterans returning to college after World War II, the college immediately needed to use Mary Lyon as a dorm.
The college immediately converted it, Roberts Hall, and Hall Gymnasium into dorm space for the flood of veterans returning from service.

Current students may be interested to know that the breakfast room opened to Swarthmore students for the first time on Oct. 16, 1946.
The dining hall in Mary Lyon 4 was renovated to seat 150, and breakfast was first served there on Wednesday, October 16, 1946.

As the flood of veterans dissipated, the dorm became both faculty housing and a dormitory, but eventually became student-housing only.
The college first used the buildings for the overflow of veterans returning from the war, but by 1952 ML 4 had been converted to half-student, half-faculty housing.

Mary Lyon was the first dorm on campus to become completely coed by room.
In September 1970 ML 4 became the first Swat dorm to be completely coed by room.

absolut swarthmore
last updated