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Spokesman: Poshard has no plans to quit SIU Presidency

Thursday's edition of the Daily Egyptian, which first broke the story
Thursday's edition of the Daily Egyptian, which first broke the story


Carbondale, Ill. – A spokesman says Southern Illinois University's president has no plans to step down in the wake of claims he plagiarized parts of his 1984 doctoral dissertation.

Spokesman David Gross says resigning "is not an option" to Glenn Poshard.

Poshard's dissertation came under question Thursday. The student newspaper said it found at least 30 sections that either weren't attributed to their original sources or weren't put in quotation marks to show they weren't Poshard's writing.

Poshard says he might have mistakenly left out some citations in the dissertation but didn't plagiarize.

"I could have made a mistake; I'm not saying I didn't," Poshard told the newspaper, insisting he mistakenly might have left out some citations in the dissertation but did not plagiarize.

As plagiarism allegations dogged Southern Illinois University over the past few years, Glenn Poshard has been there to help clean up the mess. He was on SIU's board of trustees in 2004 when a professor at SIU's Edwardsville campus got the boot for reportedly plagiarizing his two-page teaching statement. Last year, Poshard by then the university system's president ousted the chancellor of SIU's flagship Carbondale campus, Walter Wendler, who had been accused of lifting passages from a strategic plan for a Texas school where he once worked and using them in SIU's long-range blueprint though Poshard said those allegations did not factor into his decision.

Poshard also appointed a panel to review allegations of plagiarism at the Carbondale school and "have a dialogue across the system as to what constitutes plagiarism and intellectual dishonesty." Now, the tables are turned on Poshard.

The former five-term congressman with a squeaky-clean reputation and one-time Democratic candidate for Illinois governor is deflecting claims published Thursday by the SIU student newspaper.

A Poshard spokesman said Poshard's comments to the newspaper would stand, and that Poshard would not discuss the matter publicly until he could fully review the assertions.

The head of the university's board of trustees said he stands by Poshard. "We're very comfortable with the situation as is," said chairman Roger Tedrick. Tedrick says the board learned of the questions about Poshard's dissertation months ago during ongoing litigation against the university by Chris Dussold, the professor fired from SIU-Edwardsville in 2004. At that time, Tedrick said, the board vetted Poshard's dissertation through experts, "and we deemed that it was not plagiarism."

"We are standing behind President Poshard because this just comes as a demand for money in litigation," he said.

The newspaper reported that it found 14 sections of the dissertation written in 1984 for Poshard's doctoral degree in administration of higher education have verbatim texts from other sources without a citation and 16 sections have verbatim text with a citation but without quotation marks.

Poshard said he believes his hectic life at the time had something to do with that. "This is not an excuse, and I would never offer it up as an excuse but at that point in my life, I had a family," Poshard told The Daily Egyptian. "I worked two jobs. I was running for the Illinois State Senate. I was trying to get my dissertation finished."

Poshard was first appointed to the state Senate two weeks after his dissertation was completed, following the death of Sen. Gene Johns. He later served five terms in Congress and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1998, losing to Republican George Ryan.

He subsequently spent four years as vice chancellor at the SIU-Carbondale campus. Poshard, named president of the 35,000-student SIU system in late 2005, said his dissertation committee at SIU approved his method of citing that allowed him to use long sections without quotations.

Still, Poshard these days knows how touchy these things get. A year ago, Chancellor Vaughn Vandegrift the head of SIU's Edwardsville campus apologized for what he called "the completely unintentional and not deliberate" lack of proper attribution to portions of a 600-word speech he delivered during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration.

And last fall, a panel appointed by Poshard to review the flap over Wendler and SIU's long-range plan wrote that "the head of a university should be especially sensitive to giving proper attribution."

Rob Benford, the former SIU faculty senate president who has butted heads with Poshard over various projects, said newspaper pointed out "probably some carelessness" in Poshard's dissertation citations. Benford said Poshard should not be forced out over the matter, but should publicly "stand up and say, `I made a mistake, it was wrong and this is not the way we want folks to do their scholarship.'"

"I worry about how students will interpret this in terms of their own practices," said Benford, a sociology professor. "All the other fine work he does should not be tarnished by this particular mistake."

Here is a look at plagiarism allegations involving Southern Illinois University faculty and administrators in recent years:

2004: Chris Dussold is fired as a professor at SIU-Edwardsville, ostensibly for plagiarizing a teaching statement. Dussold is suing the school for wrongful termination.

February 2006: Walter Wendler, then chancellor of SIU-Carbondale, acknowledges that his "State of the University" address in March 2005 did not properly attribute an anecdote.

July 2006: Vaughn Vandegrift, SIU-Edwardsville's chancellor, apologizes for not properly attributing portions of a 600-word speech he delivered during a commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

September 2006: Wendler is accused of lifting sections from a strategic plan he helped draft for a Texas school where he worked and using them in SIU's long-range blueprint. A report by a panel that reviewed the matter found that Wendler "sincerely believed he was acting ethically by lifting what he considered his intellectual property."

Thursday: The Daily Egyptian, the student newspaper at SIU-Carbondale, says its analysis of Poshard's 111-page doctoral dissertation from 1984 reveals 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.