That’s the question that came up in the editing of my story today about the Michael Broyde scandal. It’s too soon to know whether the man looked to as a respected religious court judge and an expert on Jewish ethics can recover either mantle after the revelation of his own unethical behavior.
But at least one person thinks he can retain his academic standing: Paul Root Wolpe, brother of Rabbi David and head of the Center for Ethics at Emory University, where Broyde was also a professor. Here’s what Wolpe told CNN:
Joining a rabbinical organization’s Listserv under a false name is wrong, but it may not be "an academically sanctionable offense," he said.
In the academic community, what Broyde has done may be seen as "bad, but not fatal,” Wolpe said. “People should recognize this is clearly a breach of academic ethics. … But there are far worse things he could have done.”
Yes, he submitted work to a journal under a pseudonym – which on its own isn’t unheard of, but he did so without disclosing that fact to an editor. And, yes, in a world where citing someone else’s work is a form of “academic currency,” he cited his own, Wolpe said. But he didn’t plagiarize, nor did he steal someone else’s research. Those sorts of actions are tenure-breaking.
“The guy is still a genius when it comes to Jewish law. He’s got an expertise that is valuable. I think this is something he will recover from,” Wolpe said. “But his heart is in the Orthodox community, and to be sanctioned by them would be the real blow.”