Publication: Sunday Times Issued: Date: 2007-05-27 Reporter: Noelene Barbeau

Verijenko: No Substance to Plagiarism Claims



Sunday Times




Noelene Barbeau


Allegations that Chippy Shaik's degree was plagiarised are "defamatory and no more than a vulgar attempt to embarrass me and my esteemed colleague (Prof Sarp Adali) as well as smear the name of my ex-student".

That is the word *1 from Prof Viktor Verijenko, the outgoing head of the School of Engineering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, amid claims he helped Shamin "Chippy" Shaik obtain his doctorate.

Verijenko, who is on a sabbatical in Australia, resigned from UKZN this week.

Verijenko supervised Shaik's disputed mechanical engineering doctoral thesis. The degree is being probed by the university amid claims that two-thirds of the thesis were plagiarised.

Shaik was a Fulbright scholar at the University of California *2 and has a Masters of Science degree from the university.

The probe into his degree came about apparently after Dr Richard Young, a whistle-blower on the government's arms deal who lost out on a tender to supply the South African Navy with an information management system, claimed there were problems with Shaik's thesis *3.

According to Verijenko the motivation for the plagiarism allegations, which surfaced on the eve of Schabir Shaik's Constitutional Court challenge to his fraud and corruption conviction, is purely political and an attempt to discredit both Chippy Shaik and himself.

Verijenko sent an e-mail to all his academic colleagues in Durban where the controversy broke over Shaik's doctorate.

"There were no specific allegations, substance to or hard evidence produced to substantiate these claims of plagiarism, collusion or any improper relationships with my former student as suggested," read the e-mail. *4

Speaking to the Tribune from Australia, Verijenko said Shaik was Young's "personal enemy" *5 and could not believe the university would seriously consider his complaints. He said Young was not an expert to judge the quality of the research performed as well as the authenticity and individual author contribution. *6

"His allegation that Chippy did not have enough time to do the work is absolutely ridiculous. Chippy started his work in 1995 and then officially registered in 1996."

Verijenko said that as the supervisor, he did not take part in the examination process, which established that "the work performed by Dr Shaik is of the highest standard" *7.

Regarding the three pages that were alleged to be missing from the original copy of Shaik's thesis, Verijenko said these were misplaced during the binding of the final document *8, but were present in the original examiners' copies *9.

On the issue of co-authorship of papers, he said almost all science and engineering post-graduate students who published papers did so with their supervisors "because the supervisor is in a position to give the student an indication of scientific value *10".

With acknowledgement to Noelene Barbeau and Sunday Times.

*1       Tough words.

Now put your money where your mouth is, Professor Fraud.

*2      Chippy Shaik was awarded (according to his CV), a MS degree from the San Diego State University; is this the same place as the great University of California?

*3      Indeed, indeed.

*4      Fiction.

*5      No - Chippy Shaik made it quite clear on Carte Blanche that Young was Shaik's personal enemy.

*6      Oh, no?

*7      The thesis submitted by candidate Shaik is of the lowest standard.

*8      The copy reviewed by me was obtained from the University's microfiche copy. This is submitted unbound by the candidate at the onset of the examination process - so it has nothing to do with a final process or a binding process. The bound library copy is also missing these same three pages. The University also advised me that all copies to which they had access, which presumably would include that of the internal supervisor (who is an employee and currently a member of staff), was also missing these same pages and that the mossing pages would have to be obtained from the student.

*9      I want to see this stated under oath.

*10     In this case it seems it was because the supervisor was in a position to give the student something of scientific value.