University has confirmed: Parliament's Speaker copied large parts of his thesis

The commission did not use the word “plagiarism”, which Danko used to dismiss his critics.

Andrej DankoAndrej Danko (Source: Diana Černáková, SITA)

The university that granted Parliament's Speaker Andrej Danko his JUDr. title has admitted that large parts of his thesis were copied from the texts of other authors, but did not call him a plagiarist.

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After the Dennik N daily highlighted the questions about the Andrej Danko's doctoral dissertation in September, Matej Bel University (UMB) in Banská Bystrica, which granted Danko his degree, put together an ad hoc comission in mid-November. The commission checked Danko’s thesis and the thesis of lawyer Daniel Pisák, who defended a thesis with the same name one year after Danko and also earned his degree for it.

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Read also: Why is an 18-year-old doctoral dissertation causing an uproar among the public? Read more 

After two months of dealing with the problem, the commission stated on January 11, 2019 that the vast majority of Danko's thesis is problematic. After a three-hour long meeting, the academic senate of the university presented its conclusions: the thesis of one of Slovakia's highest constitutional officials is problematic.

“There is a concordance,” said commission head Vladimír Janiš, as quoted by the Sme daily.

However, the commission refused to use the word “plagiarist” in connection with Danko.

Playing with words

The commission found out that 63 out of 72 pages in Danko’s doctoral dissertation are problematic. The rest have a formal character, such as the table of contents, Dennik N reported.

The pair of dissertations that appeared in the media do include parts that are slightly modified in comparison with the source literature, the commission stated. Most parts, however, "show a high rate of similarity" with the source literature. The authors of the dissertations sometimes even kept the same structure of chapters and subchapters as in the original source, Janiš said.

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The academic senate also confirmed that Andrej Danko’s thesis corresponds with another thesis. Both had the same opponent and head of the committee, but the senate refused to state their names.

Read also: Danko’s doctoral dissertation has a twin Read more 

Despite this, the commission avoided using the word ‘plagiarism’ in connection with Danko. It is not mentioned in the report at all. The commission members argue that Slovak laws do not recognise the definition of plagiarism.

However, several academic stated off-record that what Danko had done is certainly plagiarism, Sme wrote.

“The word 'plagiarism' is not mentioned in the entire report, which is what my opponents were wishing for,” Danko told the press briefing hours after the decision of the commission was made public.

His briefing took about two minutes, thanking the commission for the evaluation, saying that he took their results into account, and walked away without taking any questions from the journalists.

Still a plagiarist

The ruling coalition refrained from commenting on the commission decision, leaving it up to Danko's personal decision or making excuses about not reading the report.

The opposition is more critical. They tried to remove Danko from office twice due to this case, both times unsuccessfully.

Read also: UPDATED: Denník N: Danko is a plagiarist Read more 

MP Miroslav Beblavý, who heads the non-parliamentary party Spolu, stressed that politicians step down over plagiarism even in Orbán’s Hungary.

“Andrej Danko wants to turn our country into the most western part of the Eurasian Union, where rules do not apply for heavyweights,” he stated in a press release on behalf of Spolu, adding that we should not allow him to do so and insisted on Danko leaving the top parliamentary post.

In his response Richard Sulík from Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) called Danko a “liar” and “fraud". Sulík reminded the public that Danko may still run for president, since the SNS has not yet announced the name of their candidate and Danko admitted that he might run for his party.

Whose fault?

The Dean of the Law Faculty of UMB stated in mid-November that even if Danko stole the text from other work and defended the thesis before the commission in 2000, the university cannot be responsible for it.

“Several generations changed at the university in 20 years,” he explained, as quoted by Sme daily, adding that he is the fourth generation of deans and he cannot bear any responsibility for what happened back then.

Moreover, the academics do not doubt Danko's degree.

“His degree has been rightfully granted,” said Janiš, as quoted by Sme, but admitted that the way he earned the degree is questionable. Janiš said for Sme that he would not accept such a thesis, adding that it is not possible to take away his degree.

Meanwhile, Danko’s case has provoked public discussion on the right to withdraw a university degree from someone who dubiously earned it. The Education Ministry said that it has no interest in intervening in the university process and so the university will have the right to withdraw the degree, pursuant to the principle of “those who give also take”. The government approved the legal amendment on January 9.

Renáta Hall, an expert on university education from the To Dá Rozum (Learning Makes Sense) think tank, opined that even though the word “plagiarism” is not mentioned in the report, what the committee described as the violation of academic ethics within Andrej Danko's doctoral thesis is called plagiarism in the developed world.

“It is important for the development of academic ethics and quality of science that Andrej Danko steps down,” Hall said for the Hospodárske Noviny daily, since he harms ethics, Slovak universities and science by actions, due to the political importance of his position.

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