Nanjing University professor under investigation for academic misconduct

Society & Culture

Nanjing University announced today that Liáng Yíng 梁莹, a sociology professor who earned several prestigious titles such as Changjiang Scholar, is currently being investigated after allegations of plagiarism and complaints about her failure to fulfill teaching responsibilities.

The 39-year-old professor came under scrutiny following an investigative article (in Chinese) published by the China Youth Daily on October 25. Reporters found that many of her papers published in the early stages of her academic career, particularly when she was working on her master’s and Ph.D. degrees, disappeared from some major digital libraries of academic resources used by Chinese scholars, including CNKI and Wanfang.

When contacted by the newspaper, an anonymous employee working for an established academic journal said that since 2014, the publication had received multiple requests from Liang to take down two papers written by her and published more than 10 years ago. According to the person, Liang explained that she wanted the removal because the papers were low quality and she had stopped writing papers in Chinese. “This is abnormal,” the employee said. “I don’t approve of the reasons given by her. It takes time for a scholar’s academic capability to evolve. Even though you have matured and become a professor, you can’t simply erase your early work only because it’s shallow.” The person added that while his department never responded to Liang’s requests, the two papers still got removed from the database.

Reporters discovered that from 2016 to 2017, over 100 papers bearing Liang’s byline disappeared from online sources and that many of them borrowed heavily from other scholars’ work. Liang’s colleague, a professor in the sociology department, said that when Liang joined Nanjing University in 2009, there was an opposing voice on her employment. At that time, Liang, at the age of 30, had already published 30 papers, yet few of them had yielded significant results and conclusions. “Nevertheless, she was hired mainly due to the number of published papers,” the professor said.

Confronted by the newspaper, Liang admitted to some “inappropriate behavior in academic studies,” adding that she doesn’t want some early mistakes to affect her future. “If you apply the same standards to all Chinese scholars, you’ll find every one of them has some problems, more or less,” Liang said.

Meanwhile, Liang is facing complaints from students about her shoddy courses. A former student who took Liang’s course in 2016 told the newspaper that the professor often dismissed the class sooner than scheduled and arranged discussions among students so that she could make calls or play with her smartphone. Upon one occasion, Liang spent about 10 minutes on her phone while the whole class sat still, not knowing what to do. Liang even explicitly said in class that she “had nothing to fear because she was so accomplished.”

It’s reported that six sociology professors at Nanjing University made a complaint to the school authorities last year about Liang’s teaching attitudes, but their words fell on deaf ears.

According to the statement (in Chinese) released by Nanjing University today, the school has launched an investigation into the case and vowed to impose a campus-wide zero-tolerance policy regarding academic dishonesty.

In addition, The Paper reports (in Chinese) that Liang hung up on a journalist this afternoon after saying, “No interviews. Don’t harm me anymore.”