Minister of Youth Development Foster Cummings said while pursuing his master's degree in government at the UWI in 2007, an issue regarding plagiarism came up and he withdrew from the post-graduate programme.
In a release on Friday, he said it was a matter of not referencing his quotes in the footnotes despite citing the book in the bibliography. This caused a committee to be formed and the issue to be addressed which led to Cummings having to withdraw from the programme and register again the next year.
Cummings accepted this and completed the first semester in 2008.
He said, "When a lecturer persisted in raising the issue that led to my previous withdrawal, I did not sit any of my exams in the second semester and did not complete the programme of study."
He said after being elected as a member of Parliament in 2020, he enrolled at the School of Accounting and Management in its master of business administration programme with a major in in leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation. He said he was awarded a master's with distinction and will graduate later this year.
Cummings added that he has never asked any institution to bend its rules to accommodate him and said, one will make mistakes and lessons should be learnt from them.
However retired UWI professor, Dr Patrick Watson in response to Cummings said, "It’s a euphemism to say that it was simply a mistake that you made."
In a Facebook post on Saturday, he said plagiarism is "probably the most serious crime you can commit in academia."
He added that people who plagiarise are not reprimanded for not acknowledging source but for making the reader believe that they are the source. He said the punishment may vary but expulsion is the "ultimate punishment."
Calls to Watson for further comment went unanswered.
UNC constituency co-ordinator for Diego Martin West Marsha Walker, also commenting on the issue in Facebook post, said, "As the person in charge of Youth Affairs, what example are you setting when you downplay this?"
Sunday Newsday contacted her for a comment and she said, "His (Cummings) integrity is definitely being questioned and I believe he should do the honourable thing and step down."
She said it's not the crime itself but rather how the situation is being handled is setting a bad example for young people.
"He should confront the seriousness of his academic crime rather than downplay it and he should step away from politics until he can clear the other allegation."
Walker was referring to the investigation of Cummings led by the Anti-Corruption Investigation Bureau (ACIB) after a Special Branch report was leaked and disclosed by Opposition Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial.
She said, "Allowing Foster Cummings to stay in active politics is to tell our young people that you can get ahead once you downplay wrongdoing."