Oct. 1, 2007
By George Mauzy
A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit an Ohio University professor of engineering brought against university academic leaders following disciplinary measures they took as a result of an internal investigation into student plagiarism.
Judge Algenon Marbley last week dismissed the 2006 suit Professor of Mechanical Engineering Jay Gunasekera filed against Russ College of Engineering and Technology Dean Dennis Irwin and Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl. Gunasekera claimed he should not have been stripped of his graduate faculty status and that he was denied the opportunity to clear his name. The judge said the professor failed to prove graduate faculty status is a constitutionally protected right that was deprived of him without notice or the opportunity to be heard.
Irwin had stripped Gunasekera of his graduate faculty status, which includes the privileges of advising graduate students and of serving on thesis and dissertation committees, for three years. By mutual consent, the professor also stepped down as chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Those actions followed an internal investigation that determined several of his advisees' mechanical engineering theses and dissertations contained plagiarized material.
In his ruling, the judge said graduate faculty status is not protected by the Constitution, but instead is a benefit. He further stated Irwin and Krendl did not deny Gunasekera an opportunity to clear his name since an appropriate hearing was offered, but the professor rejected it because it failed to meet some of his conditions.
"Ultimately, the defendants offered the plaintiff more than he was due," Marbley wrote.
Gunasekera filed a separate defamation complaint against the university in the Ohio Court of Claims, and that case is pending. Ohio University attorneys filed a motion for summary judgment in February, saying Gunasekera doesn't have sufficient evidence of defamation.
Ohio University has taken a variety of measures to reaffirm its commitment to academic honesty after several dozen mechanical engineering theses and dissertations were alleged to contain plagiarized material. One degree has been revoked, 19 rewrites have been called for and eight cases have been dismissed. Twelve cases are up for hearing, and about 17 remain to be reviewed. The university and the Russ College have implemented a host of measures to guard against future plagiarism and cultivate academic honesty.
This story was updated Monday, Oct. 1, 2007, at 1:59 p.m.