Statement read in Departmental Meeting, September 25, 2007

Mr. [Senior Departmental Administrator],

As professors at this university, we are expected to uphold standards of academic integrity. We are asked to place a notice on our course outlines stating that McGill University values academic integrity. Our department's web site declares, "If any part of a document you submit for credit towards your degree is not entirely your own work and you do not make it clear in the document that this is the case, then you have committed plagiarism and, if discovered, will be punished." Recent actions by our Faculty make a mockery of these principles.

I first turn to the question of a penalty assessed for late submission of a course assignment. I quote from a March 24 email received from [Faculty Administrator]:

"We generally accept the student was genuinely sick if the medical note does not appear to be forged. The question here is, could he have contacted you before the 15th to inform you of his situation? If yes, your penalty holds. I'll figure this out in my meeting with the student.
"I have no problems with your policy on late submissions except that, if a medical situation arises where the student cannot possibly contact you a week in advance (e.g hospitalized, rendered immobile), the student should be exempt from this policy."

I now quote from an email received from [Faculty Administrator], who conducted the re-evaluation of the student's work:

"I remind you all that the re-grade form that I signed actually states that the grade in the course should NOT be changed! As far as I was concerned when I signed the form (and I never retracted or altered this form), the student should have failed the course.
"It was only a few days later that the late penalty for one of the assignments was removed. It was this latter step (which I had nothing to do with, apart from acknowledging that dropping of the late penalty would increase the overall grade to 50+%) that the student was given a pass. I believe that the [Faculty Administrator] must have had some reason to override the instructors application of the late penalty. Again, this may have involved confidential information that we are not privy to. I don't know. My personal opinion is that this student should have failed the course, and likely plagiarized the assignment. This opinion was communicated to the [Faculty Administrator] and the [Senior Faculty Administrator], and they noted my concern."

Mr. [Senior Departmental Administrator], how can we, as professors, maintain academic integrity when repeated instances of plagiarism are ignored? How can we maintain fair and objective standards in grading our students when, at the whim of the administration, one student's work is regraded by another professor who candidly admits to applying different standards? Keep in mind that this practice, applied to assignments -- not final examinations -- goes against the written policy of our Faculty, which reads: "Any request to have term work re-evaluated must be made directly to the instructor concerned." and I (as the instructor) had already conducted a re-evaluation of the grades assigned by the TAs. Finally, how can we expect to maintain credibility when students guilty of academic misconduct see their marks increased after sending belligerent emails, in which they threaten to sue the professor, the department, the faculty"?

Mr. [Senior Departmental Administrator], when I first raised these issues in our Departmental Meeting of May 23, you advised me to communicate my concerns to the [Senior Faculty Administrator], which I did that same day. When I met with you privately on June 7, at your request, you offered me several assurances: (1) That you would demand the [Senior Faculty Administrator] meet with me one-on-one to discuss my concerns; (2) that you look after your faculty and make sure they are treated fairly, and (3) that no change of grade would be effected without my being consulted and intimately involved in the process. You gave me your word on this.

None of these assurances were borne out by actual events. The [Senior Faculty Administrator] would not meet until he called for disciplinary action against me, the student's grade was elevated, with neither my being consulted as to what that grade should become nor any involvement in the process, and my private computer files were extracted from archives at the demand of the [Senior Faculty Administrator], with neither my consent nor my being informed.

Mr. [Senior Departmental Administrator], your assurances have proven worthless, and your silence until now has left me questioning your leadership. If you value academic integrity and if you wish to convince us of your personal integrity, I call on you to step down as [Senior Departmental Administrator], effective immediately, until such time as these matters are resolved in a manner as outlined in my list of Desired Outcomes.

Last update: August 24, 2008
by Jeremy Cooperstock