Quick Takes: Department Declines to Review President's Dissertation, No Confidence Vote at Antioch, Dean Accused of Harassment Quits, Death in Dorm Fight, Governance Reform at Roger Williams, Philanthropy Debate, Defense of Peer Review

September 6, 2007
  • A Southern Illinois University at Carbondale department has declined to review the system president’s dissertation for evidence of plagiarism, having “concluded that a committee with broader academic representation would be more appropriate for this review,” a spokesman said Wednesday. Facing allegations that he copied or improperly cited multiple sections of his dissertation, President Glenn Poshard had asked the SIU educational administration and higher education department -- which granted him a doctoral degree 24 years ago -- to evaluate the document. Many experts, however, had questioned his desire to handle the matter internally, saying that a review by professors who ultimately report to the president could never have credibility. The Board of Trustees is reviewing the department’s decision and as now, the issue remains unresolved.
  • The faculty of Antioch College has this week voted no confidence in Toni Murdock, chancellor of the university, following her dismissal of the college's president and reorganization of the college's fund raising operations -- changes that the faculty said should have involved consultation with the faculty and did not. "The chancellor's precipitous actions have damaged the college to such an extent that her continuation works against the survival of the institution," said a statement from a faculty spokeswoman. "College faculty and staff are highly committed to providing a stable and supportive academic environment to students as they seek to complete degrees at an institution that faces an uncertain future.... These precipitous actions on the part of Chancellor Murdock further weaken the college and severely disrupt the educational mission of this institution." A spokeswoman for the university said via e-mail late Wednesday that she was only just learning of the vote and could not comment. Generally, Murdock has defended her actions as necessary to deal with financial crises.
  • Peter Cookson, dean of Lewis & Clark College's graduate education school, resigned Wednesday, the same day detailed allegations became public that he had harassed his assistant, The Oregonian reported. Willamette Week first revealed the allegations, including love notes Cookson sent the assistant. One of the notes questioned why the assistant, who is white, had a black boyfriend. A college investigation found the harassment allegations to be "substantiated" and the assistant was given a different job. Cookson characterized what happened as "just a weird situation."
  • A University of Arizona student is dead and her roommate is in the hospital following what is being investigated as a dormitory fight, the Associated Press reported. The dead student had reported difficulties with her roommate, whom she suspected of stealing from her. At one point, the woman who was killed -- Mia Henderson -- was offered an alternative room, and turned it down.
  • Roger Williams University, in Rhode Island, announced Wednesday that 13 new trustees were joining its board (which now has 20 members), and that the reconstituted group is both diverse and governed by new rules. The university's board imploded in July, following revelations that its then chairman -- who had served for nearly 40 years -- had used the slur "nigger" in a board meeting. Three members who had pushed for the chairman's removal, which they eventually gained, were themselves ousted, leaving a board that consisted only of white men. The university's accreditor and faculty leaders were demanding major changes. The new board is almost one-third female and is one-fourth members of minority groups. A major criticism of the board previously had been that a few people had too much power for too long, but the new board will have term limits. Trustees will serve three-year terms, will be unable to serve more than six consecutive years without one year off the board, and will be limited to nine years of total service. Board members' service prior to this year will not count, but they will be covered by the new limits.
  • Do the largest gifts to higher education really deserve the tax breaks their donors receive? A number of critics, including some big donors, don't think so, The New York Times reported.
  • The British Academy, which consists of leading figures in the humanities and social sciences, has issued a new report defending peer review as a system for publishing and allocating research funds, The Guardian reported. The report responds to criticism that peer review avoids risky, path-breaking ideas, and says that the real problems facing peer review are that those who support the system by evaluating work do not receive adequate support.
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