University strips German defence minister of degree

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

BERLIN - The University of Bayreuth stripped German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg of his degree Wednesday, a week after the disclosure that parts of his doctoral thesis were copied.

Ruediger Bormann, the university president, announced the ruling hours after the postgraduate committee of the law and economy faculty met.

The 39-year-old aristocrat had written to the university Monday asking for his degree to be revoked because of “serious errors” in the thesis.

Earlier Wednesday, Guttenberg told parliament that he had “faults and weaknesses” but was not a cheat when he partly copied his university thesis.

Facing a grilling from lawmakers over the alleged plagiarism, he gave no explanation of why he cut and paste text into the thesis, without any acknowledgement in the footnotes that he was quoting the work of others with only minor changes in wording.

“Plagiarism assumes that one has consciously and deliberately cheated. And I have said in all my statements that I neither consciously nor deliberately cheated, but that I did make grave mistakes,” Guttenberg told parliament.

“It was obviously a very faulty doctoral dissertation,” he said.

The Social Democratic (SPD) whip, Thomas Oppermann, demanded that Guttenberg resign. “You have cheated, you have betrayed and you have lied. I find it appalling that the chancellor has decided that an academic con-man and liar is allowed to remain in cabinet.”

As he fielded questions from opponents and ducked calls to quit, Guttenberg hinted that a busy schedule might be to blame.

“I was so rash as to believe that I could combine my political enthusiasms and work with academic and intellectual challenges while raising a young family. Obviously it was overloading,” he said, remaining poised and smiling, though visibly tense.

Bormann said any copying without acknowledgement breached scholarly standards and was illegal, regardless of whether it had been deliberate or whether the thesis as a whole was plagiarized. This was enough to void the degree.

The controversy over Guttenberg’s thesis has been top news in Germany for the past week.

But the conservative baron, who is married to a great-granddaughter of Iron Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, is still viewed as the country’s most popular politician, latest polls showed.

Later, Guttenberg insisted to parliament that he would stay in office to oversee the massive pruning of the German armed forces.

“I will do so over the weeks and months to come. In office. With delight and with enthusiasm,” he said.

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