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October 18, 2002

BELLESILES UPDATE UPDATE: If you haven't checked, my original post about Jon Weiner's attempted defense of Bellesiles in The Nation has been updated a lot and you should check the new material out.

In general, since I often update posts, it's a good idea to scroll back down the page from time to time, and not assume that the only new stuff is at the top. But you probably knew that.

Given that Emory is surely going to have to come out with a decision in the Bellesiles case soon, several readers have wondered if the Wiener piece represents a last-ditch effort to generate some favorable publicity so as to justify a slap-on-the-wrist penalty like demotion or suspension. I don't know. I'm inclined to think it's probably a waste of time if so, given that (since we know Bellesiles is appealing an adverse decision) there seems to be pretty solid evidence against him. I certainly agree with Jerome Sternstein that a whitewash would be a major mistake for Emory:

So far, the investigation into allegations of research misconduct by Bellesiles appears to cover only the evidentiary problems publicly revealed before last February. But researchers are continuing to unearth errors which are just as serious and resonant of academic fraud as those that have already been brought to light, including new evidence tending to show that Bellesiles never, ever used some of the records he claimed to have employed; never, ever spent a moment in some of the archives holding records that he claimed to have read; and never, ever read hundreds of records that existed only in his own imagination (far more non-existent records than have been revealed publicly so far). When this new scholarship is published, which it most surely will be, Emory would again find itself entwined in a scandal, this time of its own making and with a "smell" emanating from the inner sanctum of the administration. If Bellesiles continues to teach at Emory, it is almost certain that Emory will again be consumed by another investigation of Bellesiles -- an investigation demanded simply by its own guidelines and the pervasiveness of the alleged fabrications in Arming America.

Given that University administrators dislike scandal, and given that Bellesiles has been a one-man bad-publicity squad for Emory for over a year, it's hard for me to believe that they'd want to keep this alive, especially when the evidence seems so strong. But I could be wrong.

UPDATE: Wiener's article doesn't seem to be getting much of a reception over at the History News Network site. And this HNN post by Don Williams suggests that the decision is due next week.

ANOTHER UPDATE TO THE UPDATE UPDATE: Or something like that. Here's another post by Don Williams with some interesting links and commentary relating to the Nation piece.