Thursday, December 29, 2005 | Despite a ruling by San Diego State University that an instructor committed plagiarism when he submitted an economic impact report about the 2004 Holiday Bowl, that same instructor will be working on the project again this year.
Robert Rauch stepped down recently as the director of research at the school’s hospitality and tourism management department after it was revealed that he had produced last year’s economic impact report with a virtual copy of the previous year’s.
Officials use the economic impact report as evidence of the Holiday Bowl’s benefit to the community and to solicit public funds for the event.
Last year, the San Diego Bowl Game Association received more than $430,000 of hotel room tax revenue to help fund the Holiday Bowl.
For this year’s report, Rauch said he will be doing the same thing he did last year: organizing a group of students to administer surveys of Holiday Bowl visitors. The team of researchers gathers data produced by the surveys to compile the annual economic impact report.
But the alleged plagiarism isn’t the only problem with the report, said Michael Casinelli, the researcher SDSU says Rauch plagiarized. Casinelli said there are questions about the quality and veracity of Rauch’s data as well.
He said that Rauch’s report double-counted individuals such as the players, the media and band members. The error resulted in an additional 3,600 people to the Holiday Bowl’s reported attendance of 63,711, Casinelli said. He added that these individuals were already included in the reported attendance.
Rauch responded to this claim by saying that Casinelli is mistaken and, “has no idea what he is talking about.”
Casinelli, the owner of Marketing Information Masters, had conducted the study for more than 20 years. He resigned from the Holiday Bowl executive committee early in 2003.
SDSU, Holiday Bowl executives and Rauch say that they stand behind Rauch’s research and his efforts this year.
“Not only do I stand by the numbers, I think that Michael Casinelli should probably move on and find something else to do with his time,” Rauch said during an interview. “[This year’s report] will be completely different; Mr. Casinelli won’t even recognize it.”
Rauch’s report on the 2004 bowl game showed an economic impact of about $38 million, with Holiday Bowl fans staying in town an average of two nights. Casinelli’s report, a year earlier, found an impact of only $30 million, while concluding that the average visitor stayed in town three nights.
The economic impact study submitted by the department in 2004 had most of the words verbatim from the 2003 report. Some paragraphs were added, others deleted and figures changed.
When the allegation arose that he had plagiarized the report – a serious accusation on college campuses – Rauch contended that he hadn’t actually written the report. Instead Rauch said a foreign student was responsible for most of the report.
Thomas Scott, SDSU’s director of research later asked Rauch to resubmit the report with proper attribution to Casinelli.
Rauch said that he was instructed by the Holiday Bowl organizers to use Casinelli’s report as a template with which to draft a report of his own.
“The plagiarism was blamed on me because I took responsibility because I didn’t want somebody with a full time job to have to take the fall,” Rauch said. “I work for (program director) Carl Winston and (dean) Joyce Gattas, they both had ample time to review the report, as did I.”
Members of the board overseeing the bowl game read and discussed the report before they concluded it could be used, Rauch said.
“I asked if they wanted to give any attribution to Mr. Casinelli and they said absolutely not,” he said.
A faculty committee, however, led by SDSU’s Scott determined that “Mr. Rauch had indeed committed plagiarism.”
Rauch promptly stepped down as director of research for the Hospitality and Tourism Management program at SDSU.
Casinelli is not satisfied.
In a letter to Scott, Casinelli expressed concern over what he sees as an investigation limited in scope, and a ruling that ignored the issue at hand.
“In other words, the only thing the university thought was wrong was that Mr. Rauch did not cite all of his sources,” Casinelli stated in the letter. “How absurd! This conclusion is a discredit to the university and insults the intelligence of the public.”
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