Hungary president won't resign over scandal

AP News
Posted: Mar 30, 2012 3:51 PM
Hungary president won't resign over scandal

Hungary's president won't resign despite losing his doctoral title in a plagiarism scandal, saying Friday he would write a new dissertation to prove he can comply with current academic requirements.

Pal Schmitt said on state television his "conscience is clear" regarding his 1992 thesis on the Olympic Games and said "it didn't feel good" to be stripped of his doctorate, especially because he was not able to make his case to the university panel that made the decision.

"I did not want to declare anyone's intellectual product my own," Schmitt said, adding that he had behaved as a "simple student" who followed the rules of his institution. "It was honorable achievement."

The former Olympic fencing champion's doctorate was revoked by Semmelweis University on Thursday, because his thesis was found to be mostly copied from other authors and did not meet professional and ethical standards.

A five-member committee consisting of four professors and a lawyer said earlier this week that more than 200 pages of Schmitt's 215-page thesis were either direct translations or showed "partial similarity" to other works.

The committee, however, blamed the University of Physical Education, since absorbed by Semmelweis, for not noticing the "unusually extensive" copying, nor bringing it to Schmitt's attention. It also said that, despite some flaws, the process which resulted in Schmitt's doctorate _ such as his dissertation's preparation and defense _ complied with the university's formal requirements of the time.

"I will prove that as a former Olympic champion I still have perseverance," the 69-year-old Schmitt said. "I will prove ... that I can write a so-called Ph.D. dissertation and obtain my doctorate in this manner."

Schmitt's decision was somewhat surprising, especially after intellectuals and media close to the government indicated they favored his resignation to finally end the plagiarism affair, which was first revealed in January by Internet publication

A small group of activists from Politics Can Be Different, the smallest opposition party in Parliament, set up tents Friday morning outside the Sandor Palace, which houses Schmitt's office, vowing to stay until he resigns.

Schmitt was elected president for a five-year term by Parliament in 2010 with support from Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party.