Monday, September 17, 2007

Blue Ribbon Panel Already Questioned

From the Chronicle of Higher Education's website. Unfortunately, you need to purchase a day pass to read the entire article. It appears that appointing a panel of academics from SIUC may not be the best way to insure an impartial reading of the papers. I figure the panel will go ahead but would rather have seen a panel of academics from outside SIUC to ensure impartiality.

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Here is the entire text of the article in question:

Internal Panel Will Review Plagiarism Allegations Against President of Southern Illinois U.


Plagiarism accusations against Glenn Poshard, president of Southern Illinois University, will be investigated by a panel of seven senior faculty members of the university's Carbondale campus, officials announced last week. Since then, some professors and students have been asking whether people ultimately supervised by Mr. Poshard are the best to conduct the review.

Fernando M. Treviño, chancellor at Carbondale, however, emphasized the panel's independence when he announced its members on Friday. "The members of this group are among the most respected faculty members on our campus," he said in a written statement. "Each is well known for their integrity, their scholarship, and their commitment to the academic reputation of this university."

For more than two weeks, Mr. Poshard has been fighting allegations -- brought to light by the student newspaper at Carbondale -- that he plagiarized passages in his 1984 dissertation (The Chronicle, August 31). And The Chronicle recently discovered citation problems in his 1975 master's thesis for Southern Illinois, on drug abuse among students at rural high schools (The Chronicle, September 10).

Mr. Poshard has acknowledged that he may have mistakenly omitted some citations from his dissertation but defended its honesty. He has declined to comment further, saying he wants to wait until a review of the allegations is completed.

Mr. Treviño is asking the review committee to meet with Mr. Poshard and examine the literature, data, and other materials used in his dissertation and master's thesis, and to "determine the pervasiveness and significance of any source-attribution problems that are found to exist." The committee also is assigned to prepare a report on the issue, which will be forwarded to the university's Board of Trustees. The board supervises Mr. Poshard.

Reviewers' Independence Questioned

At least one faculty member, however, is complaining about the makeup of the committee, arguing that a panel of faculty members cannot be impartial about evaluating accusations against an administrator who has some authority over them.

"It's hard to fire people with tenure," said Robert Bruce Ware, a tenured philosophy professor on the institution's Edwardsville campus. "But there are all kinds of ways to hurt them."

In an essay published on Sunday in the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Ware called on the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the governor's office to intervene and mandate that a panel of people outside the university evaluate the accusations against Mr. Poshard.

In an interview on Sunday, Mr. Ware also said that Southern Illinois's Board of Trustees cannot be trusted to fairly evaluate the panel's eventual report on the accusations because some board members have already publicly announced their support for Mr. Poshard. Furthermore, he noted, Mr. Poshard led the board only a few years ago. He stepped down as chairman of the board in 2005 when he entered the running for the president's job.

"This is cronyism," Mr. Ware said. "It reminds me of a third-world dictatorship."

Brian A. Ragen, a professor of English at Edwardsville, also accused the university of cronyism in its handling of the plagiarism charges.

"I suspect that if Poshard ever has the decency to resign, the board will try both to give him a 'golden parachute' and to avoid trying to make him disgorge his ill-gotten gains," Mr. Ragen wrote in a letter he sent last week to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Daily Egyptian, the student newspaper that brought the plagiarism allegations to light, said in an editorial last week that it, too, was skeptical that the panel reviewing the accusations could be impartial. "How will the faculty members charged with the task of reviewing his dissertation ever forget that they hold their boss's fate in their hands?" the editorial asks.

Michael Ruiz, a spokesman for the university, said Mr. Treviño and Vaughn Vandegrift, chancellor at Edwardsville, had followed university procedures when deciding that a panel of faculty members would evaluate the alleged plagiarism. Enrolled students facing plagiarism charges have their work scrutinized by a faculty committee, too, he said.

Earlier Allegations

In a twist to the case, Mr. Vandegrift himself has confronted plagiarism allegations (The Chronicle, July 20, 2006). He apologized to his campus last year after it was revealed that several passages from a speech he made appeared to be lifted from a Web site.

A former chancellor at Carbondale, Walter V. Wendler, was also accused of plagiarism in the recent string of allegations against top university officials. Mr. Poshard asked Mr. Wendler to step down from that post last year after revelations that portions of a strategic plan the chancellor had put together came from an earlier strategic plan he had helped write for Texas A&M University at College Station (The Chronicle, November 9, 2006).

Chris Dussold, who was fired as an assistant professor of finance at Edwardsville in 2004 for copying his two-page teaching statement (The Chronicle, February 10, 2006), declined to comment on the creation of the faculty review panel. But his lawyer, Jeff Ezra, said, "We are happy to see Mr. Poshard get due process even though the school failed to provide Mr. Dussold the same."

Mr. Dussold is suing the university for wrongful termination.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that Mr. Poshard may have been working behind the scenes to shore up support for his presidency. The article says that he contacted the director of the University Christian Ministries at Carbondale and that, at Mr. Poshard's prodding, the religious leader encouraged people to vote in the president's support in an online poll.

A spokesman for Mr. Poshard said the president had mentioned concern about the poll's outcome to the religious leader merely in jest.

Copyright © 2007 by The Chronicle of Higher Education
This is very frustrating. I'm not a supporter of Poshard per se, but this is the policy ON THE BOOKS. If SIU did not follow their own policy, they might be liable to a law suit. I've sat in one of the meetings where this was discussed and a bunch of reasonable, non-cronies thought this was the right way to start.

You can't start making up rules midstream; this is typically where SIU-C gets into trouble. Remember the whole Jon Bean thing? 90% of the problem was that CoLA didn't follow their rules for allowing GAs to submit grievances. Nearly every controversy at SIU in the last ten years or so fits that same bill.

Does anyone honestly think the FA has love for *any* SIU administrator? For that matter, the Grad Council is perhaps the most sober body on the entire campus and hardly rushes to judgment. Everyone needs to chill out and let the panel do its work. If the plagarism is egregious, then its time to talk degree recision. Then, and only then, would it be appropriate to even start thinking about a resignation or termination. We haven't even had a finding of fact yet, for goodness sake.

Thanks. I'm betting on an apology, followed by corrections.
Describing the situation as cronyism similar to that of a third world dictatorship is hyperbole that serves no purpose. Did you notice no quotations from SIUC faculty in the article?
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