Questioning Minister Nadiem's Hesitation
The inspectorate-general at the ministry of education, culture, research and technology backs the accusations of plagiarism against the rector of the Semarang State University. This is a stain on the face of the education system.
HAVING been proved guilty of plagiarism, Semarang National University Rector Fathur Rokhman must be fired immediately. Minister of Education, Culture, Research and Technology Nadiem Makarim must not be afraid. And neither must Gadjah Mada University (UGM) Rector Panut Mulyono hesitate to strip Fathur of his doctorate. It is from UGM that Fathur was awarded his doctorate based on a dissertation now proved to have been copied. The reluctance of Nadiem and Panut to act harms the good name of the education system, which should not tolerate plagiarism.
It all began in 2018 with a report to the Academic Performance Evaluation (EKA) team of the ministry of research, technology and higher education (since dissolved) and the Indonesian Ombudsman. An investigation by the EKA found that Fathur Rokhman’s dissertation titled The Use of Language in a Bilingual Society: A Sociolinguistics Study in Banyumas was a work of plagiarism.
The Semarang State University then established an internal investigation team which found there was no evidence of plagiarism. UGM subsequently intervened. An investigation by the UGM Honor Council found that Fathur’s paper was indeed the result of plagiarism. In its recommendation in March 2020, the council recommended the rector revoke Fathur’s doctorate.
But instead of complying with this recommendation, Panut established another team of legal experts to reexamine the findings. This team reached an opposite conclusion. In April 2020, the UGM rector said that Fahtur’s dissertation was not plagiarism and said there was no problem with it. Panut’s decision was questioned, including by the UGM Academic Senate. Semarang State University students demonstrated at the UGM and at the offices of the Ombudsman. They said they were embarrassed because they had been turned into objects of ridicule for studying at a campus led by a rector lacking integrity.
The inspector-general at the ministry of education then stepped in. Following an investigation, it reached the same conclusion as the UGM Honor Council: Fathur was guilty.
As the awarder of the doctorate, the UGM has a responsibility to maintain the integrity of its campus by correcting this wrong decision—including by revoking a doctorate obtained through dishonesty. This must be done not only to preserve the reputation of the UGM, but also the dignity of higher education.
The ministry of education must not escape its responsibility. While the awarding of doctorates is a matter for the UGM, the position of rector is within the remit of the minister. With this clear result, there is no longer any reason for Nadiem Makarim to hesitate in dismissing Fathur from his job as rector. This decision does not need to be delayed until the UGM has stripped Fathur of his doctorate.
The former Minister of Research, Technology and Higher Education Mohamad Nasir set a precedent in 2017 when he fired Jakarta State University Rector Professor Djaali. Aside from the allegation of nepotism, Djaali was also accused of plagiarism. By not acting resolutely like his predecessor, Nadiem might well be accused of cowardice. Firm action by Nadiem over this matter is needed not only to respect the work carried out at the inspectorate-general in his ministry, but also to preserve the reputation of higher education.