Arenson, Karen W. "SUNY Classics Professor Is Accused of Plagiarism," New York Times, 22
February 2002, pp. B1, B5.
The chairman of the classics department at the State University at Albany has left his
chairmanship following charges by a colleague that he plagiarized translations of Latin texts and
presented them as his own.
The University at Albany issued a statement late yesterday saying that it was
investigating the allegations of academic misconduct against the professor, Louis W. Roberts,
who has been at Albany since 1989, was a chairman of its faculty and was awarded the campus's
"Excellence in Academic Service Award" for 2000.
The university said that after Feb. 15, Dr. Roberts was no longer either chairman of the classics
department or director of the doctoral program in humanistic studies; he had held both posts until
then. It said he remained a full-time faculty member.
The charges against the professor come after a spate of plagiarism and academic misconduct
incidents across the country, some involving well-known authors. Last month, the popular
historian Stephen E. Ambrose admitted that he had failed to properly attribute passages in his
best seller "The Wild Blue" that virtually mirrored passages in a book by the historian Thomas
Childers, "The Wings of Morning."
Dr. Roberts did not return either a phone call or an e-mail request for comment.
Albany officials also declined to comment further, saying that their investigative process was still
under way and that the issue was a personnel matter. But their statement said that the university
regretted the public disclosure of the charges, saying it conflicted with due process procedures for
those charged with professional misconduct and other infractions.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the allegations against Dr. Roberts in an online
article yesterday, after an Albany history professor circulated a memo about it earlier this month.
The history professor, John Monfasani, said yesterday that he was concerned that the charges had
been brought to the attention of top Albany officials, including the president and the provost,
more than a year ago, but that apparently no action was taken until he circulated his memo.
In his memo, Dr. Monfasani said that he had learned of the alleged plagiarism last month when
an acquaintance, Christopher Schabel, teaching at the University of Cyprus, asked him what was
happening with the case.
Dr. Monfasani said that Dr. Schabel had discovered that sizable portions of a book by Dr.
Roberts, "Sources for the History of Cyprus, Vol. VIII: Latin Texts from the First Century B.C.
to the Seventeenth Century A.D.," which was published in 2000, were taken from two old
sources: a 1929-1930 book by John L. La Monte and a 1908 book by Claude Delaval Cobham,
which was reprinted in 1969.
Dr. Monfasani said that Dr. Roberts had presented some of the translations as his own when, in
fact, they were reprints of previous translations. The cover of the book says that Dr. Roberts
"selected, edited and translated" the texts.
Dr. Monfasani added that his friend also found mistakes that Dr. Monfasani said were "laughable
to anyone who knows medieval documents," including the fact that some of what purported to be
translations of Latin texts were instead someone else's summary of translated texts.
A classicist at an Ivy League university, who spoke on the condition that he and his university not
be identified, called the area of study covered by these books "a dim corner" of the discipline.
"It's not very many people's field," he said. "It's a bridge period and you need a lot of languages
— Latin, Greek, Arabic and Turkish. It tends to fall between disciplines."
Dr. Monfasani, whose specialty is Italian Renaissance humanism but who has some familiarity
with Latin texts and their translations, said that in late 2000, Dr. Schabel contacted Paul Wallace,
another Albany classics professor, who verified Dr. Schabel's charges and took them to an
Albany official, Carlos Santiago, who is provost, a year ago.
Dr. Wallace, an expert in Greek and Egyptian archaeology who was the general editor of the
book series that included Dr. Roberts's book, said in an interview yesterday evening that after Dr.
Schabel contacted him, he went to the library and looked up the articles.
"I'm afraid that there was no question that there was plagiarism," he said, adding that he called
Albany's provost the next day.
"Plagiarism for us, you see, is the prime academic sin," Dr. Wallace said. "I can't imagine that a
graduate student who was writing his dissertation and did this would not have been kicked out."
According to a university Web site, Dr. Roberts went to Albany in 1989 to be a professor of
classics and director of the Center for Arts and Humanities.
The site also said that he had been chairman of three different departments: Germanic languages
and literatures, classics, and English, and had taught courses in religious studies and in the
humanistic studies doctor of arts program, often teaching three or four courses a semester.
In his memo, Dr. Monfasani said that Dr. Roberts had been allowed to remain in positions of
authority even though "he has demonstrably disgraced his colleagues, his university and the