May 30, 2006To: Dr. Kathy Krendl, Provost, Ohio University
From: Gary D. Meyer, Asst. V.P. for Economic Development & Technology Development and H. Hugh L. Bloemer, Associate Professor (Emeritus) of Geography; Director (Emeritus) of the Ohio University Cartographic Center (OUCC) & former Chair for the Ohio University Faculty Senate (2001-04)
Subject: Plagiarism in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Russ College of Engineering at Ohio University
We have assessed the issue of plagiarism in the above department over the past four months and we conclude that rampant and flagrant plagiarism has occurred in the graduate program of the Department of Mechanical Engineering for over twenty years. All members of the academic community, students and faculty alike, are responsible for the integrity and originality of their work. According to the documents that we read and investigated, there are seven faculty members in the department who supervised theses where plagiarism was found. However, the vast majority of the cases revolve around three faculty members who either failed to monitor the writing in their advisees theses or simply ignored academic honesty, integrity and basically supported academic fraudulence. We consider this most serious.
There can never be a time or reason at an academic institution, such as our Ohio University, when plagiarism can be justified. Equally, there can not be any tolerance of the individuals who participate in this serious misconduct. The ad hoc committee of the college established some guidelines to mitigate the obvious problems but we do not concur that the problems are caused by the graduate students and subsequently it is up to the graduate students to remedy the situation. When a faculty member becomes the advisor/mentor of a graduate student, she/he automatically assumes the responsibilities to monitor the progress of the students as they advance to become professionals. Supervision of theses is part of the process. We are appalled that three members of the faculty in mechanical engineering have so blatantly chosen to ignore their responsibilities by contributing to an atmosphere of negligence toward issues of academic misconduct in their own department. We are amazed to see that the internal ad hoc committee recommended no reprimand for those individuals.
We recommend the following:
1) A lack of faculty oversight on theses work is of particular concern in relation to two faculty members in the Department who served as advisors in many of the theses included in this investigation. These two members' involvement in these issues should be referred to the College of Engineering Professional Ethics Committee, consistent with the Ohio University Faculty Handbook, for their deliberation and recommendations to the Dean of the College. We recommend that, consistent with Ohio University policy, you initiate the dismissal of the current chair of the department immediately, start the process of rescinding the title of Moss Professor and dismiss the Group II faculty member, who had the second highest incidences of plagiarism, 11 theses under his direction.
2) Place the individual with five violations on probation for a period of two years with regards to chairing theses.
3) Encourage the Dean of College speak with the other four individuals to ensure that they understand the gravity of their 'oversights'.
4) Remove all theses that contain known plagiarism from the library records. If University policy permits, as suggested by the College of Engineering Academic Honesty Oversight Committee, to 'correct' their theses, they should be required to defend their theses again and, as all other students who defend their theses, to re-enroll for at least one credit hour at Ohio University during the quarter of defense. The cost of this enrollment should be paid by the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
5) All theses and dissertations submitted to Ohio University must be in digital form. There should be no exceptions!
6) Change the practice of only two internal thesis committee members (in the College of Engineering) to three and strongly recommend that all theses committees have an additional external committee member throughout Ohio University.
7) Review university policy to assure that external funding for research can in no way be in conflict with the academic mission of the university. Academic integrity can never be subject to suspicion of external influence. The fourteen cases identified in this investigation that have received external funding should be reviewed further to assure that there was no external influence on the research.
8) Review ALL theses of concern in this investigation to determine external funding sources, if any, and scrutinize them as directed in 7 above.
9) After the review, as recommended in 7 and 8 above, inform the funding organizations (if warranted) of the corrective steps that have been taken by the College.
10) We reviewed an additional 65 theses from 13 other disciplines across the campus based on similarities in titles (the same approach used to ascertain the problem in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.) From this cursory review we conclude that this plagiarism issue is unique to the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Ohio University.
11) We have identified that seven of the Masters students identified in this plagiarism investigation continued their graduate education at Ohio University and earned a Ph. D. from Ohio University. The dissertations of these individuals were supervised by the two faculty members who have the highest number of infractions in this misconduct. We recommend that these dissertations be carefully reviewed and scrutinized by the College of Engineering.
12) There are currently three graduate students in the Ph. D. program who have been identified as having committed plagiarism in their thesis. They should be suspended until ALL their thesis work has been properly cleared.
13) Of the total 293 master theses completed in the department of Mechanical Engineering (according to the College's records), 106 or 36% were supervised by the two individuals who have been identified as the major contributors of the plagiarism problem in that department. All of these theses should be reviewed by the College to ascertain if additional theses contain plagiarism and, if so, they should be included and be subjected to the appropriate actions suggested by the college committee and the Provost.
14) Act swiftly to get this unacceptable conduct at Ohio University behind us and let us move forward with our noble mission of educating the future professional from poets to CEOs of the world.
"The highest courage is to dare to be yourself in the face of adversity. Choosing right over wrong, ethics over convenience, and truth over popularity? these are the choices that measure your life. Travel the path of integrity without looking back, for there is never a wrong time to do the right thing." (This quote came from a poster entitled: The Courage of Integrity.)
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