The Shameless Plagiarism of Aleksandar Šapić

 

By Dr Uglješa Grušić, Dr Marko Milanović, Dr Branislav Radeljić, and Slobodan Tomić

In our analysis of the doctoral dissertation of Serbian Minister of Internal Affairs Nebojša Stefanović, we noted that our only motives were to draw attention to questions concerning academic integrity and the quality of the system of higher education in Serbia. We were also clear about our lack of interest in the political context, as well as any personal disqualification or the infliction of political harm. For the same reasons, today we would like to share with the public the findings of our examination of the doctoral dissertation written by Aleksandar Šapić, an official of the opposition Democratic Party (DS) and the President of the municipality of New Belgrade.

Two days ago, after waiting for almost three months, we managed to acquire a copy of Mr Šapić’s doctoral dissertation, which was originally requested along with Minister Stefanović’s thesis.  A copy of the entire dissertation is available here.  Mr Šapić’s thesis is entitled “The Characteristic Activities of Marketing Relations in the Service of the Interests of Individual Consumers”, and was defended in 2012 at the Faculty of Business and Industrial Management of the Union University in Belgrade.

Mr Šapić posted the following (extra-large) tweet on Twitter, also just days ago:

Some individuals have requested my doctoral dissertation.  Why would anyone doubt me and believe that I have done something illegal or immoral?  If it is because of my physical appearance, tattoos…or athletic career (“because, of course, all athletes are stupid”), then maybe I have also bought my elementary school degree and should justify that, too. I don’t want to justify myself to anyone, and if anyone has any doubts, they should visit the relevant official bodies or any other institution and seek justice from them, I have no problems with it. I have been leading a transparent life for over 20 years now and I have nothing to hide. I have honestly and honourably acquired everything I own and am not ashamed of anything, and I don’t intend to justify myself or roll in the mud that is being deliberately created in our society just because someone puts all of us in the same basket. We’re not all the same!

It is true that we are not all the same. Most people with a PhD worked hard and for many years to get it. Mr Šapić is therefore exactly the same as his predecessor, Minister of Police Nebojša Stefanović: they are both plagiarists. Moreover, Mr Šapić has sunk deeper into the Serbian academic mud than Mr Stefanović, not because of his tattoos or his (indisputably outstanding) athletic career, but because his plagiarism is more serious, more extensive and more shameless than that of Mr Stefanović.

A large chunk of Šapić’s dissertation is a word-for-word translation from English into Serbian of a book by David Jobber and Geoffrey Lancaster, Selling and Sales Management (Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd, 8th ed, 2009 – hereinafter “Jobber and Lancaster”). The book itself is available on the Internet in part via Google Books, the look inside service of Amazon UK, and on the website of an obscure university from the so-called Turkish Republic of North Cyprus. We do not expect readers to take us at our word for the conclusions that follow, but we invite them to open Šapić’s doctoral dissertation and the book by Jobber and Lancaster and to compare the two themselves.

For example, the entire fourth chapter of Šapić’s dissertation (pp 96-120) is a translation of chapter 3 (Consumer and organisational buyer behaviour) from the book by Jobber and Lancaster. For the sake of illustration, the two chapters begin as follows:

Šapić, p 96Jobber and Lancaster, p 78
Postoji nekoliko značajnih razlika između isticanja individualnih potrošača kao kupaca i organizacija kao kupaca, sto ima važnog uticaja na plasiranje robe i usluga, naročito na funkciju prodaje kroz lični kontakt.Načelno, kompanija koja prodaje industrijske proizvode ima manje potencijalnih kupaca nego ona koja prodaje robu široke potrošnje. Često se 80% proizvodnje, u prvom slučaju, proda broju od 10 do 15 firmi. To znači da je za kompaniju koja se bavi industrijskom prodajom jedan kupac neuporedivo značajniji nego za kompaniju koja prodaje robu široke potrosnje. Situacija se komplikuje na nekim potrošačkim tržistima gde je značaj posrednika u trgovini kao što su supermarketi tako veliki, da su kupci koji direktno kupuju, bez obzira na to što za proizvode postoji tržište od mnogo miliona ljudi, u istom rangu kao važni industrijski kupci.There are a number of important differences in emphasis between consumer and organisational buying that have important implications for the marketing of goods and services in general and the personal selling function in particular. Generally, a company marketing industrial products will have fewer potential buyers than one marketing in consumer markets. Often 80 per cent of output, in the former case, will be sold to perhaps 10–15 organisations, meaning that the importance of one customer to the business to business marketer is far in excess of that to the consumer marketing company. However, this situation is complicated in some consumer markets where the importance of trade intermediaries, for example, supermarkets, is so great that, although the products have an ultimate market of many millions of people, the companies’ immediate customers rank alongside those of important organisational buyers.

 

Also, the introductory section of Šapić’s chapter 6 (pp 144-152) is a translation of chapter 8 (Personal selling skills) from the Jobber and Lancaster book (pp 248-258), including the references, tables and even some Chinese proverbs:

Šapić, p 150Jobber and Lancaster, p 256
Demonstracija.Kineska poslovica: Reci mi, i zaboraviću; Pokaži mi, i možda ću se setiti; Uključi me i shvatiću.Demonstracije takode umanjuju rizik zbog toga što pružaju dokaz o podrazumevanim koristima proizvoda. Glavni producent filmova o obuci prodajnog osoblja organizuje demonstracije kadrova na regionalnom nivou kako bi menadžerima za obuku pokazao kvalitet kandidata. Proizvođači industrijskih proizvoda organizuju demostracije kako bi pokazali mogućnosti svoje robe. Prodavci automobila dozvoljavaju mušterijama da provozaju automobile. Demonstraciju svih proizvoda, osim najjednostavnijih, korisno je podeliti u dve faze.Chinese proverb: Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve meand I’ll understand.Demonstrations also reduce risk because they prove the benefits of the product. A major producer of sales training films organises regional demonstrations of a selection in order to prove their quality to training managers. Industrial goods manufacturers will arrange demonstrations to show their products’ capabilities in use. Car salespeople will allow customers to test drive cars. For all but the most simple of products it is advisable to divide the demonstration into two stages.

 

Similarly, the introduction to Šapić’s chapter 7 (pp 169-170) is a translation of a part of chapter 12 (Internet and IT applications in selling and sales management) from the Jobber and Lancaster book (pp 353-355, text in the box entitled A sales practitioner’s perspective). The discussion that follows is not plagiarized from that book, though several references have seemingly been pilfered from it at random, coupled with some truly oustanding typos:

Šapić, p 173, fn 6Jobber and Lancaster, p 378, ref 16
Shan, R., Customer are about sales not falseFriendiships, Marketing, januar.1999Shaw, R. (1999) ‘Customers are about sales, not false friendships’, Marketing, January, p. 20

 

Of course, it’s not just the Jobber and Lancaster book that Šapić plagiarized (which, adding insult to injury, he never even cites). Mr Šapić’s entire dissertation is in a fact a giant plagiarist collage from various sources. For example:

ŠapićOriginals
p 5, second paragraph, discussion of the level of consumer satisfactionPlagiarized from M. Kilibarda and M. Manojlović, „Merenje satisfakcije korisnika logističkih usluga,“ contribution to the 35th National Conference about Quality, p2.
p 17, section 1.2.1, definition of marketing planning, not referencedThe same definition of the same concept from a work available at „Besplatni seminarski radovi“ (“Free Essays”), no 3.
p 20 et seq, including the illustrationsPlagiarized from the book by B. Mašić, Strategijski menadžment, Singidunum 2009, p 284 et seq.
p 71 in fine, text beginning with „Pojedinci na Internetu…“Plagiarized from the text on copyright (!) available at the website of the LINK University: Besplatno obrazovanje dostupno svima. To make matters worse, the conclusion of this text describes plagiarism as an infringement of copyright.
pp 91-95: text under the title “Klasterizacija u funkciji diferenciranja potrošača” (including the references and tables)Plagiarized from M. Drašković, „Klasterizacija kao komponenta globalne konkurencije,“ (2006) 2(4) Montenegrin Journal of Economics 165, 166-171.
p 188, paragraph entitled „prijavljivanje na pretraživače“Plagiarized from the article entitled „Uvod u pretraživače,“ published on 27 November 2000 on the website yuTrend.

 

One example of plagiarism was of particular interest. There is much (word-for-word) resemblance between parts of Šapić’s doctoral dissertation and an article by Mr Goran Dašić, ‘Vrednost potrošača u funkciji ostvarivanja konkurentske prednosti‘ (2013) 2 Socioeconomica: The Scientific Journal for Theory and Practice of Socio-economic development 116. This journal is published by the Scientific Society for the Promotion and Advancement of the Social Sciences AKROASIS based in Novi Pazar. The author, Mr Dašić, is an assistant director and docent/lecturer at The High School of Modern Business in Belgrade.

We again invite readers to see for themselves: identical or slightly amended text can be found on p 80 (the second and third paragraphs, except the first sentence in the second paragraph) of Šapić’s doctoral dissertation, and p 129 of Dašić’s article; pp 80-82 of Šapić’s dissertation, and pp 117-120 of Dašić’s article;  pp 86-91 of Šapić’s dissertation, and pp 121-127 of Dašić’s article; p 192 (last two paragraphs)-193 of Šapić’s dissertation, and pp 124 and  129 of Dašić’s article.

What makes this example interesting is not only the large amount of identical text, but the fact that Šapić defended his PhD in 2012, while the article written by Mr Dašić was sent to Socioeconomica on 25 May 2013 (per fn 1 in the piece), i.e. after Šapić had defended his PhD. There seem to be three possible explanations for this conundrum:

(1)  Mr Šapić plagiarized parts of his dissertation from an earlier draft of Mr Dašić’s article;

(2)  Mr Dašić plagiarized his own article from an otherwise plagiarized dissertation by Mr Šapić (which would truly be the pinnacle of cosmic irony);

(3)  Mr Šapić’s dissertation and Mr Dašić’s article were written by the same person, who out of laziness used the same text twice.

Which one of these possibilities is true is a question that can only be answered by Messrs Šapić and Dašić, but one of them must be correct.

In short, the doctoral dissertation of Aleksandar Šapić is among the most flagrant examples of plagiarism we have ever come across. Given the extent of the academic theft involved, the plagiarism was clearly planned and deliberate. It is beyond doubt that Mr Šapić did not acquire his doctorate “honestly and honourably”, as he claims. Whether he is ashamed of anything we do not know, but we hope that he knows what to do next.

In that regard:

(1)  We call on the Union University Belgrade to commence proceedings to revoke Mr Šapić’s doctorate, and, unlike Megatrend University in the case of Mr Stefanović, to secure the independence and impartiality of such proceedings, inter alia by including external professors in the analysis of the validity of Mr Šapić’s doctorate;

(2)  We call on Mr Šapić to take full responsibility for his plagiarism, apologize publicly to all authors whose works he plagiarized, and to resign from his office as the President of the municipality of New Belgrade, as well as from all other public duties;

(3)  We call on the president of the Democratic Party, Mr Bojan Pajtić, to urge Mr Šapić to publicly accept responsibility for his immoral actions and, if he so refuses, to use all  mechanisms at his disposal to secure Mr Šapić’s removal from his public duties;

(4)  We call on all political parties in the Republic of Serbia to publish on their websites the masters and doctoral dissertations of their own prominent members, who acquired their degrees while holding public or party posts, in order to subject them to academic scrutiny.

We are not an academic police force, and we make these requests as ordinary citizens. It is now up to other members of the academic community in Serbia, who continue to live and work in this country, to take the necessary action to prevent the further devaluation of academic titles, and to continue to expose public figures who have obtained PhDs that they don’t deserve. Instead of a conclusion, please allow us to paraphrase (lest we be accused of anything…) the now famous Chinese proverb: tell me about plagiarism and I’ll forget (Stefanović?); show me the plagiarism and I may remember (Stefanović!); involve me in exposing acts of plagiarism and I’ll understand that respecting strict ethical and academic standards is the only way of healing the Serbian system of higher education, and with it society as a whole.

A version of this text first appeared on Pescanik. 

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