SIU president won't resign over alleged plagiarism

Saturday, September 1, 2007
Southern Illinois University president Glenn Poshard addresses the media Friday, Aug. 31, 2007, in Carbondale, Ill. Poshard rejected claims he may have plagiarized parts of his 1984 doctoral dissertation, but he acknowledged "unintended mistakes" in citations in his thesis. (AP Photo/Daily Egyptian, Ryan Rendleman)

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University's president asked Friday for an internal review to determine whether he can keep his job in the wake of claims he may have plagiarized parts of his 1984 doctoral dissertation.

Glenn Poshard insisted the flap would not prompt him to resign and rejected claims that he may have plagiarized parts of the dissertation. But he acknowledged "unintended mistakes" in citations in his thesis and asked for the head of the department where he got the Ph.D. to review the matter and recommend any actions to the university's board of trustees.

"Any decision about my future with the university lies with my bosses, which are the board of trustees," Poshard said at a news conference. "That's as much as I can say about that at this point in time."

It was not immediately clear how soon the Department of Educational Administration and Higher Education would make its recommendations.

Roger Tedrick, the chairman of SIU's board, has said the panel learned of questions involving Poshard's thesis months ago, scrutinized the matter and stands "very comfortable" behind Poshard, a former five-term congressman and one-time Democratic candidate for Illinois governor.

While repeating that he would not resign, Poshard made clear his doctorate helped get him his job as the roughly 35,000-student system's president in 2005.

"Would I be president of this university without the Ph.D.? No, I could not be," Poshard said. "This is the second-largest university in this state and one of the great universities in the nation, and there is no way the board of trustees would hire someone here without a Ph.D. to run the university."

When asked whether he feared possibly being stripped of his degree, Poshard quickly replied, "Absolutely not. I'm not worried about that at all.

"Whatever the future holds, it holds."

Poshard's comments were his first publicly since the student newspaper at the Carbondale, Ill., school, The Daily Egyptian, reported Thursday that its analysis of Poshard's 111-page dissertation, obtained from an anonymous source, found at least 30 sections either not attributed to their original sources or not put in quotation marks to show they weren't Poshard's writing.

Poshard said he might have mistakenly left out some citations in the dissertation -- with the blessings of his doctoral committee -- but he didn't plagiarize.

"I did not try to deceive anybody about where it came from," he said.

As part of the internal review, Poshard said he wants the Department of Educational Administration to review the allegations, examine the dissertation and its cited sources, and "to advise me on corrections necessary to make this dissertation consistent with the highest academic standards."

"When mistakes are made, even though unintentional, they need to be promptly acknowledged and remedied," Poshard said. "Whatever their judgment is will be acceptable to me."

Poshard had planned to meet Friday with faculty and staff constituency groups at the Carbondale school, including the faculty senate's executive committee. But Poshard said he scrapped those talks to avoid the appearance that he wanted to manipulate the review's outcome.

Peggy Stockdale, a psychology professor and the faculty senate's vice president, called the decision "unfortunate."

"I certainly hope that he does meet with us soon, the faculty and staff leaders, so we know the whole story," Stockdale said. "It might be that this is all misunderstood and there's a perfectly good explanation for it."

Poshard's resignation "would be a very sad day," Stockdale said.

"I think Dr. Poshard is a man of great integrity, and I think he will find a way to help the campus move through this in an ethical and fair manner, and hopefully we'll resolve the issue," she said.

The allegations follow Poshard's ouster last year of the Carbondale school's chancellor, Walter Wendler, who had been accused of lifting sections from a strategic plan for a Texas school where he worked, then using them in SIU's long-range plan. Poshard said Wendler's failure to be a team player -- not the plagiarism questions -- cost him his job.

Wendler declined to comment to The Associated Press on Friday.

Three years ago, SIU fired professor Chris Dussold for reportedly plagiarizing his two-page teaching statement.

Along the way, both Wendler and the chancellor of SIU's sister campus in Edwardsville, Ill., just east of St. Louis, apologized last year for what they called unintentional lack of attribution to portions of one public speech they made.

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