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SIU-Carbondale Chancellor responds to plagiarism accusations

SIUC photo of Chancellor Walter Wendler

By Illinois Public Radio/AP/KWMU


Carbondale, Ill. – The Chancellor of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale is defending his long range plan for the campus, called "Southern at 150."

A group called "Alumni and Faculty Against Corruption" claims the plan is based on a document Walter Wendler helped craft at his previous job at Texas A&M.

SIU President Glenn Poshard has formed a panel to study whether Wendler plagiarized anything.

But Wendler told Illinois Public Radio's Jennifer Fuller that any similarities between the reports stem from the fact that he oversaw both of them.

More background

Poshard's naming of the three-person panel came the same day The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that SIUs long-range planning blueprint bears similarities to Texas A&M's "Vision 2020."

A&M's plan, unveiled in 1999, aspires to make that College Station-based school among the nation's 10 best public universities by 2020. SIUs plan aims to make the school a top 75 public university by its 150th birthday in 2019.

Wendler was Vision 2020's coordinator at Texas A&M, where he served as vice chancellor for planning and system integration before becoming head of Southern's 21,000-student Carbondale campus in 2001.

The two schools' plans, according to a story Friday on the Chronicle's Web site, list a two-page list of "critical concerns," including the subtitle "Overarching Issues," and a nearly identical eight-point list of "primary gaps," including "low research dollars in the sciences" and a "less attractive community than larger metropolitan areas."

Texas A&M's written belief plan notes that the university "is judged and will continue to be judged by how well it serves the citizens of the State of Texas." The Southern Illinois plan says that it "is judged and will continue to be judged by how well it serves the citizens of the State of Illinois."

On Friday, Poshard said in a statement that he tapped the panel "to assure a deliberative, objective and thorough review of these reported allegations." Poshard deferred additional comment until after the group submits its findings to him.

The committee includes Mike Lawrence, director of the campus's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute; William Muhlach, chairman of the Carbondale school's zoology department; and Wenona Whitfield, associate dean of the law school.

Allegations involving plagiarism at SIU also surfaced in February, when Wendler acknowledged he unintentionally left out the source of an anecdote during his "State of the University" speech last year.

Wendler said he didn't realize the quotes were someone else's until a Chronicle of Higher Education reporter asked him about it for an article for the publication a story largely about Chris Dussold, a professor fired from SIU-Edwardsville in 2004, ostensibly for plagiarizing a teaching statement.

In July, the head of SIU's sister Edwardsville campus just east of St. Louis apologized for not properly attributing portions of a 600-word speech he delivered during a commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Chancellor Vaughn Vandegrift attributed one quotation while other portions of the text appeared to come from other writings, a Web site and a White House proclamation.

In an e-mail to faculty and staff, Vandegrift said failing to attribute a portion of the speech was "completely unintentional and not deliberate."

Dussold is suing the school for wrongful termination, and a group of his backers has created Alumni and Faculty Against Corruption at SIU. They feel he was unfairly targeted and are dedicated to scouring speeches and writings of faculty members and administrators for examples of improper attribution or outright copying.

A committee on Carbondale's campus issued a report this spring with suggestions to combat student plagiarism. The university has bought $21,000 in software that can help professors and students detect plagiarism.


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