U-M student accused of plagiarism sues Michigan Daily for defamation, emotional distress
A University of Michigan student accused by fellow student newspaper employees of plagiarism is taking the paper and her former colleagues to court, suing for defamation and emotional distress.
U-M student Julie Amanda Rowe suffered extreme emotional distress after being accused of plagiarism at The Michigan Daily, according to the lawsuit filed Feb. 4 in Washtenaw County Circuit Court. She resigned from her position as an editor there in order to avoid being fired, the lawsuit says. Rowe took time off school following the incidents, which occurred in the winter of 2009, but returned to the Ann Arbor campus this fall.
Rowe's lawyer, Arthur Butler of Plymouth, said Rowe wanted to be a journalist, but those aspirations have changed.
Angela Cesere | AnnArbor.com
The suit maintains Rowe did not plagiarize and asks for a jury trial and more than $25,000 in damages. The lawsuit names the University of Michigan, the student-run newspaper and editorial employees Gary Graca, Jacob Smilovitz and Courtney Ratkowiak as defendants. It also charges that Rowe's due process rights were violated.
Smilovitz, the current editor in chief, said the Daily has hired legal counsel.
"Since this is an ongoing litigation matter, our attorneys have asked that I don't comment at this time," he said.
Neither Graca or Ratkowiak could be reached for comment Tuesday.
The Daily has hired Detroit-based lawyer Herschel Fink to represent it and the individual students, said Fink, who declined to comment on the case.
U-M lawyers will file a response separately on the university's behalf, though it isn't clear whether U-M can be sued over actions that occurred at the independent, student-run newspaper, which is funded entirely by advertising sales and employs no journalism adviser.
The accusation of plagiarism stemmed from an article compiled by Rowe in February 2009 for the paper's weekly "In Other Ivory Towers" column, an aggregation of higher education news from news sources across the country. A March 4, 2009, editor's note posted online and linking to Rowe's Feb. 1, 2009 article states the piece cited sources verbatim without using quotes and that "The Daily no longer stands by this content."
"This implied the material was paraphrased when, in fact, it was not," Graca, the editor in chief at the time, wrote in the editor's note. The note also credited the writer for "two years of prolific writing at the Daily," and noted she had resigned. The Michigan Daily also ran a front page article March 5 that reiterated broken trust through plagiarism, according to the lawsuit. Like the editor's note online, it did not name Rowe.
The lawsuit said the campus paper had experienced problems with plagiarism prior to the incident involving Rowe.
U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald called the dispute unfortunate.
"The Michigan Daily has a long history of independent journalism on the campus of the University of Michigan, and it's unfortunate that this disagreement has occurred," he said. "We certainly hope for a quick and appropriate resolution."