Review of plagiarism claims against Poshard set to begin

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A panel investigating plagiarism claims against Southern Illinois University's president will make its work transparent to reassure the public that the probe is impartial, one of its members said Tuesday.

David Worrells said he and the six others on the panel -- expected to convene today to begin scrutinizing Glenn Poshard's master's thesis and doctoral dissertation -- are tenured faculty at SIU's flagship Carbondale campus with "academic freedom, and we will use that to the greatest extent possible."

"I know that we're in a no-win situation. Regardless of what we come up with, someone's going to say we're biased and we did that because of whatever. So, screw that," Worrells, an SIU associate professor of aviation management and flight, said. Worrells also is secretary of the school's Faculty Senate.

Worrells said he believed today's meeting would be closed to allow the panel to set its ground rules without distractions or possible outbursts from onlookers, but "really, it's in our interest that this is open and transparent."

Worrells said that if the meetings are private, he planned to lobby the committee to ensure that the public be quickly apprised afterward of what transpires. During today's session, he said, "my input is going to be that this be open as if you were sitting next to us in that meeting."

SIU chancellor Fernando Trevino announced the panel Friday, looking to swiftly ferret out allegations that passages from Poshard's 1974 master's thesis and 1984 doctoral dissertation at SIU were almost identical to those from sources published earlier.

The committee should "determine the pervasiveness and significance of any source attribution problems that are found to exist," said Trevino, who has called the panelists "among the most respected faculty members on our campus."

Each member was nominated by three of the school's key constituency groups -- the Graduate Council, the collective-bargaining Faculty Association and the Faculty Senate.

Still, the group's ability to be objective has been called into question. In a guest column Sunday in the Chicago Tribune, retired SIU professor Robert Ware wrote that "few people will believe that [Poshard] was impartially evaluated by a group of people who operate under his authority and whose careers are dependent on him."

"By insisting upon an internal review by his subordinates, Poshard will not be seen as standing and fighting so much as stacking the deck in his favor," Ware added. "Due process requires a review that is fully external and fully independent of our university."

Poshard, a former five-term congressman and one-time Democratic candidate for Illinois governor, has said he would not resign, insisting he may have made mistakenly left out some citations but didn't plagiarize.

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