Bear with me as I indulge in some racial profiling. (Can you profile your own demographic niche without sounding obnoxious and racist? No, but I can't stand watching this teen get raked over the coals one minute longer.)
Here's what my non-Indian-American friends need to realize: the intentional stealing of another's work does not FIT THE PICTURE when it comes to an Indian teen who so obviously has played by the rules. The pressure on daughters raised by South Asian immigrant doctors and other successful professionals to be "good," to avoid bringing shame to our families, and to stay out of trouble is HUGE. Even when certain ethics or morals aren't internalized by an Indian daughter, the motivation to avoid shame and guilt will go far in restraining her behavior.
That's why, in my wildest flights of imagination, I can't conjure a picture of this successful young woman, the apple of her parents' eye, closeting herself in a room and intentionally copying 40 different passages out of another person's book and inserting them into her own work. It doesn't make sense, she'd never take the risk, and it ... DOESN'T FIT THE PROFILE.
As I've ruminated on the charges made in the Harvard Crimson, I've reached my own verdict out here on the Fire Escape: I believe you, Kaavya. I hope that you'll be exonerated publicly soon, but at least you know the truth. So forget about Harvard, ignore the press, and tune out the catty discussions out here in the blogosphere, because it's what you think about yourself that really matters.
And the takeaway for me? Books should never be "packaged." Let's save that mechanism for assembly-line types of products. Books should be authored the old-fashioned way, word by word, or bird by bird, as Anne Lamott put it so well.