UPDATE: MU faculty considering policy to revoke degrees

Saturday, October 16, 2010 | 7:29 p.m. CDT; updated 9:07 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 16, 2010

COLUMBIA — Faculty council groups from the University of Missouri System are in the early stages of considering formalizing a policy to revoke degrees.

Leona Rubin, chairwoman of MU Faculty Council, said she mentioned the need for a degree revocation process during a general faculty council meeting earlier this month.

Rubin told The Columbia Daily Tribune that the discussion about formalizing the procedure is just beginning and likely will be handled first within the Intercampus Faculty Council, the body that represents all four campuses.

Bill Wiebold, an MU professor who chairs the Intercampus Faculty Council, said the group will first need to get information from the university system's academic office and seek legal advice.

"It's important," he said. "It's not a trivial process."

The university has revoked degrees before, said Brenda Selman, director of the registrar's office. But she said there are no written guidelines about the process. The revocations are handled on a case-by-case basis.

Selman said she didn't know specifics of what degrees have been revoked, only that those graduates were found to have not met degree requirements.

Rubin said the fact that degrees have been revoked without written policies is even more reason for faculty groups to develop written guidelines.

"Without a formal process, it might leave the university open to litigation if it's a questionable case," she said.

Rubin pointed to two cases that raised concerns. Paige Laurie, whose family lives in Columbia, surrendered her degree to the University of Southern California in 2005 after a roommate claimed to have been paid $20,000 to do Laurie's homework.

Rubin also noted the 2007 case where a Missouri postdoctoral researcher, Kaushik Deb, manipulated research images to draw false conclusions. Although Deb's fraud happened during post-graduate activities, not when Deb was a student, Rubin said it highlighted another form of academic dishonesty.

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Ellis Smith October 17, 2010 | 8:09 a.m.

Having an approved, written procedure for degree revocation seems reasonable and proper.

Are there also other issues the faculty council could be addressing? Are any of them inherently more important and/or more time sensitive than this one?

There's this old story about a man whose house was burning down - literally. When the firemen arrived they discovered the man was out in his front yard obsessing over a patch of crabgrass.

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