Meanwhile, back the Ivory Tower, Kaavya Viswanathan awaits her fate

More fallout from the “Opal Mehta” scandal today, oddly reminiscent of the Michael Hiltzik / LA Times scandal in our own backyard. bigopal.jpg

Admittedly, Hiltzik sought to pass off work that was his as not his own, while Kaavya Viswanathan sought to pass off work that wasn’t hers as her own. (Call it a “Reverse Hiltzik.”)

And like Hiltzik, who lost his column and his blog, there appear to be broad and wide-ranging consequences beyond the financial back at home base. For Viswanathan, that’s Harvard. And today, Harvard’s Crimson takes a decidedly dour view of what might become of her there.

(At left, Viswanathan, against the wall.)kaavya26406_wideweb__470x331,0.jpg

“Perhaps one of the most frequently discussed aspects of the Opal Mehta controversy, and one of the most divisive, is the possibility of disciplinary action against its author, Kaavya Viswanathan ’08, by the Administrative Board of the College.”

Uh-oh, Kaavya. I don’t like the sound of this.

“The Ad Board does have—and should have—broad authority in cases such as the present one. As the Faculty of Arts and Sciences states in the Student Guide to the Ad Board, ‘by accepting membership in the University, an individual joins a community ideally characterized by free expression, free inquiry, intellectual honesty, respect for the dignity of others, and openness to constructive change.’ Membership in that community extends beyond the end of class each day and beyond the gates of the Yard. And, thus, it remains the prerogative of the community to enforce its fundamental values regardless of where or when they are violated.”

Double uh-oh. They smell blood.

“For a variety of reasons, many are opposed to the idea of any censure from the Ad Board in this specific case. Some believe that the College should not interfere in what is not primarily an academic matter, others, that any offense committed has already been amply punished without Harvard’s intervention.”

Whew… we might be in the clear!

“To yield to either consideration, however, would be an abdication of responsibility.”

(Forget that. You’re toast.)
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“Media attention is not an acceptable surrogate for affirmation by the College of its values. Similarly, respect for these values must always be expected of students if affiliation with the community is to mean more to its members than access to classes and library facilities. While it would be premature to call for any specific disciplinary action, it is clear that the Ad Board ought to investigate the allegations at hand.”

In other words, just as Michael Hiltzik got to stay on board at the LA Times after an administrative review of all his recent work, you’re going to need to pass the same sniff test.

Here’s hoping your application essay isn’t filled with any pilfered Rushdie-isms.