Scholar withdraws after questions surface about co-authorship
ATHENS, Ohio (March 15, 2007) -- Thelma Wills Foote, a scholar of African-American history with a doctoral degree from Harvard University, notified Ohio University College of Arts and Sciences Dean Ben Ogles Wednesday that she is declining the university's offer to become chair of the African American Studies Department at the rank of full professor.
Foote had accepted the job offer on March 1. The following day, Outlook announced her hire.
Ogles said that on March 3, Department of History chair Norman Goda alerted him that a check of some online sources did not find support for her claim to have co-written the book "Sally Hemings: An American Scandal: The Struggle to Tell the Controversial True Story." The dean had asked Goda, who was not a member of the search committee, to nominate members to serve on a committee to review Foote's potential tenure at the full professor rank.
Foote had stated in her Nov. 16 cover letter that she had "co-authored" the title with Tina Andrews, a television actress. Her curriculum vitae lists the book as having been written "with" Andrews and published by Malibu Press in 2001. It is one of two books on the vitae; the other is a scholarly work published by Oxford University Press.
Ogles then purchased a copy of the Hemings book, which is not among Alden Library's holdings. He found that Foote is credited with a five-paragraph introduction but is not listed as a co-author on the title page or otherwise acknowledged.
The dean wrote to Foote asking for a clarification of her role. She responded that her contributions had been substantial, but they were "ex-nominated," or unacknowledged, which she described as a common practice in the film and television industry. Foote later said she regretted how she represented her role in the project.
The dean then attempted to reach Tina Andrews through her agent to verify Foote's role. As of Wednesday, he had not received a response despite numerous inquiries over the past week.
Late Wednesday, Ogles received a one-sentence e-mail message from Foote withdrawing her acceptance of the job offer.
"The way in which she represented the work and the possibility that she would not have the credentials for (the rank of full professor) raised serious concerns for me, the chair of the department and the chair of the search committee," Ogles said. "In the end, I believe she decided to withdraw rather than face the possibility that we would rescind the offer."
Ogles said he expected to make an offer to the other finalist for the position.
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Written by: Joe Brennan
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