There is now little question that Fareed Zakaria is guilty of plagiarism. He has admitted copying a portion of a New Yorker essay and apologized. Time, where Zakaria works as a columnist, has suspended Zakaria for a month, and CNN—owned by the same parent company—has suspended him pending an investigation. This represents a mere slap on the wrist for someone whose standard speaking fee is $75,000.
As Yale University lecturer Jim Sleeper notes, however, Zakaria has a perch not only at CNN and Time, but also at Yale University, where he sits on the Yale Corporation, the University’s governing board and policy-making body. There is no greater academic sin than plagiarism. Students can be expelled for plagiarizing papers, and professors can be fired. To let Zakaria off the hook on his own recognizance would be to eviscerate the principle of academic integrity for which Yale says it stands.
Whether Yale President Richard Levin will do the right thing, however, is another issue. While Levin has distinguished himself as a master fundraiser, he has also shown a disturbing willingness to undercut free speech (ironically, with Zakaria’s acquiescence), compromise academic integrity to foreign interests, and embrace fame over principle. Seldom is an issue as cut-and-dry as Zakaria’s plagiarism. Unless Yale seeks to demonstrate that cheating is acceptable and that there is no principle to which it will not turn a blind eye, then it really has no choice: It is time to give Zakaria the boot.