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Wednesday, May 31, 2006
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National expert to consult on College of Engineering and Technology plagiarism cases

ATHENS, Ohio (May 31, 2006) -- Ohio University released a report today in the ongoing investigation into plagiarism in master's theses completed in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Fritz J. and Dolores Russ College of Engineering and Technology. The university also announced today that as it moves forward with the investigation, it will consult with a national expert on academic ethics, and it will create a committee to promote academic honesty at the institutional level.

"Academic dishonesty is a critical concern for us. This issue reflects on the academic integrity of Ohio University, and it affects the academic and professional careers of students, faculty and alumni," Provost Kathy Krendl said. "We are investigating the situation thoroughly and diligently, arranging internal reviews, and bringing in a national expert. These are valuable steps in bringing this process to closure."

A total of 55 theses are under review for plagiarism. In February, the Academic Honesty Oversight Committee, appointed by College of Engineering and Technology Dean Dennis Irwin, reviewed each of the cases. Earlier this quarter, the committee issued its report, which focused on student violations of academic honesty. 

Also in February, Krendl appointed Gary Meyer, assistant vice president for economic and technology development for Ohio University, and Hugh Bloemer, professor emeritus of geography and director emeritus of the Cartographic Center and former chair of Faculty Senate, to conduct an independent review of the allegations and the report of the Academic Honesty Oversight Committee. That report, released today, affirms that graduate students in the College of Engineering and Technology committed plagiarism, and suggests that the university takes an extremely serious look at faculty involvement. 

"The university is progressing by sharing both reports with Gary Pavela, the director of judicial programs and student ethical development at the University of Maryland," Krendl said. "Mr. Pavela is known nationally as an authority on academic ethics. He has consulted with leading universities nationwide on academic honesty and related issues, and we are confident that with his counsel we will determine the best next steps in this matter."

Pavela is a past president of the National Center for Academic Integrity, a consortium of 200 universities that collaborate on academic integrity policies and procedures.

He will be on campus Tuesday, June 6, to give lectures about plagiarism to help raise the understanding of the issue on campus and to consult with Irwin, Krendl and others about best practices. Pavela's role will be to advise the institution on due process; balance the information and suggestions for action contained in the two reports; give counsel on this situation in which cases of plagiarism involve alumni; and help university officials decide appropriate ways to deal with each case.

A process for the adjudication of the cases against students will be announced at a later date after consultation with Pavela. It is important that the institution assures due process for students and gives them the opportunity to respond, Krendl said.

The university will not release the names of any students because they are protected under the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act.

Ohio University is creating a university-wide committee to look at the issue of plagiarism and best practices that it can adopt to promote academic honesty across the university.  That group will consider ideas such as implementing an honor system and providing training for faculty members to learn more about preventing academic dishonesty.

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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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