William Pierce, Vice Provost for Graduate Affairs and chair of the investigating committee, told the Louisville Cardinal he recognizes how serious these allegations must be in the minds of current graduate students. “We know how serious this issue is... The students are concerned. I think that is entirely appropriate.”
When Graduate Student Council President Amber Carrier first heard the news about Felner, she was shocked it could have happened here.“The integrity for the Graduate School of U of L is very high,” said Carrier. “I know this because I am going through it and know others who have.”Carrier said if the Deasy degree was given erroneously, there might be direct effects seen in the job market. But, it still will not take away the quality of graduate students’ degrees. “I have worked very hard and will continue to work hard,” Carrier said.
“It’s a difficult degree and a difficult program. Even if an eyebrow or two are raised, I will be able to defend my experiences through the things I have done. I don’t think there will be any question as to my strengths as a potential applicant.”
Here's the letter from Pierce:
An open letter to all graduate students of the University of Louisville.
September 26, 2008
William M. Pierce Jr., Ph.D.
Vice Provost for Graduate Affairs
Interim Dean of the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies
Paul J. DeMarco, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean of the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies
Your leaders in the Graduate Student Council and several individual graduate students have contacted the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies with concerns about the integrity of university policy and process in the area of graduate education.
The matters of concern arise from a maelstrom of allegations, many of which you know well from a variety of sources. As is frequently the case with public allegations of wrongdoing, these allegations are likely a blend of fact, fear, reason and speculation.
Your President, Ms. Amber Carrier has sent the following synopsis of immediate concerns:
"I have received a number of emails asking about the recent review of Dr. Deasy's degree and whether it was awarded properly or not. I know that the review of his degree and the committee proceedings may be confidential, and the matter is still being investigated, but a number of graduate students have expressed concern over the situation. Many are worried about how this may affect the marketability of their degrees and the reputation of the University when they are submitting applications."
The concerns of the graduate student body are very understandable and rational. Our students want to know that the integrity and value of their degrees will never be compromised by any of the current allegations that they see in the local and national press coverage. The graduate student body, and indeed the entire university, must now respond to this challenge to our core.
Responding to this challenge
We all agree these allegations are very serious. The reputation of a university, and the perceived value of the degrees it confers, depend upon the knowledge that principles such as intellectual honesty, freedom of intellectual inquiry, and academic integrity are upheld. We must safeguard against any compromise to these principles which have served the University of Louisville well for more than 200 years.
Throughout this long history, the university has provided education and opportunity to many and has conferred tens of thousands of degrees – we have 114,000 living alumni. Through its research and service to the community, the university is intimately involved in making this city, commonwealth, region and the world a better place. We will continue to justify the sacred trust placed in us by our constituents. Whether fair or not, we must also be aware that even as we are doing one thousand (or 114,000) things well, public trust can still be damaged by a single failure.
In its quest to become a research university, the University of Louisville has grown rapidly and changed greatly in the past decade, and graduate education has been a key part of this growth. Any institution that undergoes dramatic change will find that its policies and procedures strain to move apace. As we seek to manage change well, we cannot ignore the past, but we must let it be our teacher. After investigating and understanding the facts that underpin the current conversation, we can focus on necessary change, build our futures and reaffirm our dedication to the highest academic integrity.
We have no power to change the past. We do have the ability, and the responsibility, to change the future. This requires honest and rational self-evaluation, followed by action. This also requires focus. Enormous amounts of energy have been expended throughout the university and throughout our community, quite understandably, in speculation and angst over these allegations. We must now focus on rational self-evaluation and dedication to changing the future.
What facts can we provide now, and what mechanisms are there for further fact-finding?
You know that there are multiple allegations of wrongdoing. The university originally brought an allegation of fiscal wrongdoing to the attention of the federal authorities and there is an ongoing federal investigation, headed by David Huber, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky. There have been reports that this investigation will be complete in October.
For internal self-evaluation and fact-finding, President Ramsey, Provost Willihnganz and the Board of Trustees have initiated several internal and external reviews. These are underway at present, and include:
1. An internal audit of the finances of the College of Education and Human Development. The UofL Office of Audit Services has completed the first phase of its audit of the college's financial records. The audit will continue into other areas of the college. David Barker, director of Audit Services, said he expects the review to continue for at least six more weeks. Audit Services is being diligent, and President James Ramsey has encouraged them to continue to be thorough in their review.
2. An external audit of the university's grants management and contracts practices. The external audit is of our contracts and grants management policies and procedures and is being conducted by Cotton and Allen, a local accounting firm and an independent agency that is now beginning its work.
3. A Faculty Senate review of our faculty grievance procedure. This committee is currently reviewing our internal documents and procedures, as well as best practices for faculty grievance and conflicts resolution. The group had its second meeting Friday, Sept. 26. The group expects to finish its work and report back to the president and provost by the end of November.
4. A review, requested by our Faculty, Staff and Student senates in a formal letter to the Board and subsequently ordered by the Board of Trustees, of the policies and procedural management within the university. That committee is currently being formed and will have its first meeting in the next week or so.
5. A review of the conflict of interest policy and construction of a values statement. In light of allegations in the Felner investigation, a fifth committee will review the university's policies and procedures regarding conflict of interest. The provost is asking the group to look at three things: a) Adequacy of policies regarding compliance b) How informed our faculty are regarding the policies and c) To what degree our compliance policies are being followed.
6. Finally, a "blue ribbon commission" is reviewing facts surrounding a Ph.D. from the College of Education and Human Development during Felner's tenure as dean. This is the matter of most immediate concern to many graduate students.
This commission is composed of six members, and includes student, faculty, staff, alumni and community representation:
• James Atkinson, Graduate student, College of Education and Human Development and Staff Senator.
• J. Blaine Hudson, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
• Anita Moorman, Associate Professor, College of Education and
Human Development and Adjunct Professor, Brandeis School of Law.
• Martin Johnstone, Former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice.
• Commission Chair William Pierce, Interim Dean, School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies.
• Mary Gwen Wheeler, Louisville Metro Government.
The commission is a fact-finding body. It is already working and this work is being conducted under conditions of strict confidentiality.
What can graduate students do now?
The facts uncovered by the above groups will provide the foundation for future action. For now, we encourage the continued interest and engagement of the graduate student body.
• Continue to be inquisitive and intellectually honest. The student concerns noted here are natural. Continue to question. Contact your program directors and chairs. Discuss this among yourselves. Read the continuing coverage of these matters with an honest, inquisitive and rational approach, discerning fact and questioning speculation. Contact the deans of the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies directly. We will be glad to meet with student groups for further discussion.
• Contact your student leadership. They are already fully engaged in these matters. Your Graduate Student Council leadership is given below:
President: Amber Carrier – Biology (A&S); Vice President: Henry Luka - Educational and Counseling Psychology (CEHD); Secretary: Jeff Osgood - Urban and Public Affairs (A&S); Treasurer: Vicki Laemmel - Health Promotion and Exercise Science (CEHD - Sports Administration); Travel Administrator: James Lee - Chemical Engineering (Speed)
• Remain engaged in your scholarly pursuits. The allegations that have been made are grave. We must investigate these and right any wrong that is found. However your best educational interests are served by continuing to focus maximum energy on your scholarly pursuits. Even as you maintain interest in these matters, don’t forget that your education comes first. Demand the best educational experience possible, both from your university and from your self.
• Believe in yourselves and in what you know to be true. Look at your life and scholarly pursuits, and look to those of the students around you. You know that you are working long, hard hours in the classrooms, libraries, studios, laboratories, clinics and in the field. Often, this is followed by a few more hours of grading papers or planning classes. You know that there is nothing cheap about the degree that you are getting. You have the right to feel pride and to proclaim this. Be a champion of your own interests.
• Let us help you in your transition to the next step in your career. If you are a student nearing graduation and looking for that next career opportunity you may still have fears that these matters will cast a shadow upon your employment opportunities. If you are in this position, the Interim Dean of the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies will provide a letter for your position application file explaining these matters and specifically affirming the rigor of your educational program and the value of your upcoming degree.
We wish you continued success in all of your academic endeavors.
Hat tip to Page One.