The dean of Boston University's College of Communication has privately apologized to a PBS film critic for plagiarizing portions of an article by the critic in a commencement address in May.
But the dean, H. Joachim Maitre, has made no public statement about the incident, and it appears to be causing growing embarrassment for both Mr. Maitre and Boston University.
The article by the film critic, Michael Medved, was first published in the February issue of "Imprimis," a scholarly journal put out by Hillsdale College in Michigan. In the article, "Popular Culture and the War Against Standards," the author contends that ugliness and violence are glorified in film and television, and religion and traditional values are shunned. In his commencement address Mr. Maitre repeated almost word for word about 15 paragraphs from Mr. Medved's article.
An assistant dean of the College of Communication called a meeting of faculty members today to discuss the incident, and urged them not to rush to judgment. A number of professors who were still on the campus have expressed deep concern that Mr. Maitre's speech would have a harmful effect on the college's reputation. Comment Called Inappropriate
John R. Silber, the president of Boston University, has made only a terse statement saying it would be inappropriate to comment on the charges of plagiarism before Mr. Maitre was given a full hearing. A spokesman for the university said Dr. Silber was out of town today.
Mr. Medved said today that Mr. Maitre had called him on Thursday "to offer a complete apology" and to stress that at no time had he intended "to pass off my words as his own." Mr. Medved, who lives in Santa Monica, Calif., serves as co-host of the Public Broadcasting System program "Sneak Previews."
The film critic said Mr. Maitre told him that he had distributed numerous copies of Mr. Medved's article at Boston University last spring, before the commencement speech, and said that was proof he had not intended to plagiarize the article.
But several professors and administrators reached at the College of Communications today said they had never seen copies of the article and had not seen Mr. Maitre distributing it. They spoke on the condition that they not be identified.
Mr. Medved said Mr. Maitre told him he was calling from an airport immediately after returning to the United States from Malaysia. There was no answer today at Mr. Maitre's home in Brookline, a Boston suburb, and a secretary for Mr. Maitre said he was not in his office.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Medved said Mr. Maitre had told him that "he was so enthusiastic about my piece that he was going to read long chunks of it at commencement."
But Mr. Medved said Mr. Maitre told him that "inexplicably and unforgiveably, he forgot" to mention that Mr. Medved wrote the words he was using in his commencement address. "He said he just blacked out," the fiilm critic added.
Mr. Medved said he was "not in a position to judge" whether Mr. Maitre's explanation was credible. "I accept his apology, and I refuse to join the lynch mob currently going after Dean Maitre," Mr. Medved said. "I feel tremendously sorry for him."
One reason he does not feel vengeful, Mr. Medved said, is that the whole affair "has given my article more publicity." The article had already been reprinted in part in The Wall Street Journal and Reader's Digest.
Another reason, Mr. Medved said, is that "without question the primary wounded party in this is Boston University."
Indeed. the university has become the object of ridicule here. This morning on WBCN radio, Charles Laquidara, a popular talk show host, spent much of his program making fun of the college.
Matthew Nadler, who received a master's degree in journalism from Boston University this spring, said: "I am not sure an apology is sufficient for the university. I doubt that if a student got caught doing such a thing the excuse 'I'm sorry, I forgot' would suffice."
For students at the university, plagiarism is a ground for expulsion.