Earlier this week The Star-Ledger reported that Katerina Andriotis, the now-former vice president for academic affairs at Kean University, resigned after allegations came to light that accused her of plagiarizing in a report she had written.
The allegations were made by James Castiglione, who is the head of the Kean Federation of Teachers, the school’s faculty union. He accused Andriotis of plagiarizing nine pages in a 15-page report, having pulled the content from two websites, namely the University of Tennessee and the second the Center for the Study of College Student Retention.
Andriotis quickly resigned her post but, in an email, said that the plagiarism was a mistake caused by her being “overworked.” She added, “I made the serious oversight of forgetting to include the final contributions page.”
However, Andriotis’ resignation is not only the latest integrity scandal for Kean University. Last year the school’s president, Dawood Farahi, was accused of falsifying academic credentials on his resume. Teachers at the school, including Castiglione, sought his resignation. Farahi claimed it was a matter of carelessness and eventually won the backing of the trustees at the school, which renewed his contract for another 5 years.
Academic integrity issues were also cited as a reason for the school’s accreditation board to put it on probation.Though the school was able to get off probation later, it only came after significant policy changes on academic integrity.
All of these facts put the allegations against Andriotis in a different light. Not only was she a high-level administrator at the school, but she was the vice president of the office in charge of academic integrity. Yet, she stands accused of one of the most egregious breaches of that integrity.
If the allegations are true, to lift nearly two-thirds of a 15-page report directly from two websites is not a matter of carelessness or being “overworked”. Further, it’s not something that can be resolved by including a “final contributions page”. This kind of copying and pasting is not acceptable under any standard of academic writing, even with attribution, and also rises to a level that raises the specter of copyright infringement.
If Kean University is to turn around its already-dubious history on academic integrity, it first has to start with its own faculty and staff. It simply can not afford more attention being drawn to academic missteps by administration at the university, especially administration overseeing academic integrity for the students.
While plagiarism by students is always a problem, it’s not as large of an issue plagiarism by the faculty. Students are, sadly, almost expected to commit plagiarism from time to time though the faculty and staff, especially high-level administrators, are expected to know better. This is why plagiarism scandals involving them often gains news coverage and, as with this case, national attention.
Universities live and die by their reputation and it’s very difficult to build a good one when much of the coverage about the school centers around integrity problems with the staff. This, in turn, does a great disservice to the school’s students, both past and present, and makes the school less competitive in the future.