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Zaera-Polo sues Princeton University over 'plagiarism' row

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Architect Alejandro Zaera-Polo has launched a court action against Princeton University over allegations of plagiarism in a Venice Architecture Biennale project made while he was a senior academic at the US institution

The AZPML director’s action lists Princeton president Christopher L Eisgruber, the university’s dean of faculty Deborah A Prentice, and 20 unnamed individuals as defendants in the case, and seeks compensation on four separate counts, as well as the public release of documents related to the allegations.

The architect is seeking unspecified ‘punitive damages’ for the damage caused to his business and reputation.

The trade libel count says the defendants’ actions ‘have played and threaten to play a material part in encouraging others not to deal with [the] plaintiff’.

Zaera-Polo resigned as dean of Princeton’s Faculty of Architecture in October 2014 at the request of Eisgruber, however he remains a professor at Princeton.

The move followed online allegations that his departure was linked to the authenticity of texts he supplied to the Facade element of that year’s Biennale, curated by Rem Koolhaas. 

Papers filed with the Superior Court of New Jersey this week quote an August 2014 discussion forum that claimed Zaera-Polo had been formally accused of plagiarism by a group of students at the university, and that Koohaas had ‘practically disowned AZPs’ part of the show’.

The forum posting, which runs to around 100 words, continues to suggest that the allegations ‘possibly could have him removed as dean’.

Zaera-Polo’s legal team said much of the posting was ‘patently false’ and maliciously spread, and could only have been made by one or more of the un-named ‘John or Jane Does’ who are Princeton students, or otherwise associated with the university.

Several months after his resignation, Zaera-Polo issued a statement in an attempt to address an ‘endless stream of sometimes grotesque rumours’ about his resignation, including the claim that the Biennale contribution had copied large amounts of text unattributed from Wikipedia.

Zaera-Polo said some citations had been removed from the Biennale text to give the publication more relevance to the general public in a way that was ‘unorthodox in an academic setting’.

In a letter to Princeton University, Koolhaas defended Zaera-Polo, saying that the publication was intended as a ‘polemic, not an academic document’.

Statement from Princeton University

’The University is aware that Professor Zaera-Polo has filed an action against it and others relating to the investigation and disposition of research misconduct claims asserted against him and to his resignation as Dean of the School of Architecture. As noted in the Rules and Procedures of the Faculty, the “University is committed to high scholarly standards in the substance of research and to high ethical standards in the conduct of research” and to the fair and unbiased adjudication of all misconduct complaints.

’The University is confident that the officials and faculty members who investigated and adjudicated the claims against Professor Zaera-Polo did so fairly and in accordance with University policies and procedures. The University will defend its position in court, and looks forward to the successful resolution of these claims.’


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