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Wednesday, August 23, 2006
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Ohio University announces comprehensive strategies to address academic honesty

ATHENS, Ohio (Aug. 23, 2006) -- Ohio University officials today announced a comprehensive set of strategies for addressing academic honesty. The strategies have been developed in the wake of alleged cases of plagiarism involving current and former graduate students in the university's Russ College of Engineering and Technology.

"Academic honesty is a core value for Ohio University, a value that is taken very seriously," Provost Kathy Krendl said. "These allegations of plagiarism have served as a wake-up call to the entire university community, and we are committed to developing a superlative academic honesty program and becoming a model for other academic institutions nationwide. Due process for all involved will be an important component."

Ohio University has initiated the following steps:

Pending cases

  • Theses and dissertations in the Russ College will continue to be reviewed. To date, 55 have been reviewed. Forty appear to have problems. Three were written by current students, whose cases were referred to Ohio University Judiciaries. Of the remaining 37 cases, one alumnus was deceased. Two cases were dropped when it was determined they were source documents for plagiarism. The university then attempted to contact the remaining former students.

  • On Aug. 22, Ohio University sent letters to 23 of the 25 former students who had responded, informing them of their specific infractions and of the requirements to appear before the Plagiarism Hearing Committee. One of the remaining two cases is for a former student with no currently available address; the other is for a current student whose case was referred to Judiciaries. The Plagiarism Hearing Committee will decide the cases and assign appropriate penalties. (Click here to see a list of committee members.)

  • Former students accused of plagiarism will receive due process. A five-member hearing committee chaired by Professor David Ingram will decide their cases and will impose penalties based on the specifics of each case. Penalties could possibly include revocation of degrees.

  • Two faculty members who approved theses in question have been relieved of their duties as graduate advisers. This fall, Russ College and Ohio University faculty will help Russ College Dean Dennis Irwin determine possible further sanctions.

Universitywide  initiatives

  • Provost Krendl has appointed a 10-member Academic Honesty Committee of faculty, staff and students. The group is co-chaired by professors Scott Titsworth and Susan Sarnoff and is charged with reviewing the university's policies, procedures and processes related to academic honesty and making recommendations to strengthen them if necessary. (Click here to see a list of committee members.)

  • Provost Krendl also announced a university-wide "Day of Discourse" on academic honesty, to be held Sept. 28. This event will bring all of the university's stakeholders together with the Academic Honesty Committee to discuss topics including policies, procedures, education and support for faculty and students.
  • Discussions about academic honesty will be included during orientations for new graduate students and teaching assistants prior to the beginning of fall quarter. 

Russ College initiatives

  • The Russ College has implemented and continues to implement various actions, listed with dates of implementation unless otherwise noted:

    • Electronic screening of all theses and dissertations (fall 2005).

    • Graduate-student-signed statement of originality to accompany theses and dissertations (fall 2005).

    • Revised thesis and dissertation committee composition for all new committees. Thesis committees require a member from outside the Russ College, and dissertation committees require one additional member, with two total members being from outside the Russ College (summer 2006).

    • A required Russ College graduate writing seminar, subject to curriculum committee approval (developed summer 2006 as "ET502 ? Technical Writing Seminar," to be offered quarterly beginning fall 2006).

    • Revision of Russ College teaching evaluations to enable measurement of the teaching of academic honesty principles (developed summer 2006 for implementation fall 2006).

    • Russ College student honor council to work in conjunction with the Russ College faculty honor council and develop a broadly acceptable definition of plagiarism for the Russ College; assess the state of academic honesty in the college; recommend policies, procedures and initiatives; and brief the dean quarterly and the provost annually (weekly meetings beginning summer 2006).

    • Appointment of an academic honesty adviser for the Russ College (summer 2006). Graduate student Melissa Broeckelman will serve as a liaison between the dean's office and the student and faculty honor councils and will provide research and other support.

    • Development of a Russ College honor code (summer 2006 with expected implementation by the end of fall quarter 2006).

    • Voluntary examination of theses and dissertations advised by Dean Irwin (summer 2006).

    • Mandatory new graduate student orientation (September 2006).

    • A faculty/staff academic honesty town hall meeting (Sept. 6, 2006).

    • A student academic honesty town hall meeting (Sept. 12, 2006).

    • An academic honesty workshop for faculty (September 2006).

    • Faculty honor council (fall 2006).

    • A new Research Integrity Committee, in replacement of the Academic Honesty Oversight Committee, to review future cases of alleged plagiarism by former students in completed theses and dissertations; it will include three students and one non-Russ College faculty member (fall 2006).

    • Examination of additional theses and dissertations; exact scope and nature of process to be determined by the dean in consultation with the Research Integrity Committee (fall 2006).

    • Review and re-appointment of graduate faculty, annually (October 2006).

Ohio University has consulted with nationally recognized academic ethics expert Gary Pavela regarding appropriate actions. Pavela will brief the Plagiarism Hearing Committee on recent case law and academic policy and will also review proposed penalties. Pavela is director of judicial programs and student ethical development at the University of Maryland.

"We are working together as a community to reaffirm academic honesty as a core value at Ohio University and are taking action to become an even stronger university," Krendl said.

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Media Contact: Director of Media Relations Jack Jeffery, (740) 597-1793 or jefferyj@ohio.edu, or Media Relations Coordinator Jessica Stark, (740) 597-2938 or starkj@ohio.edu

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