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West Liberty HR To Review Plagiarism Accusations Against President; BOG Takes No Other Action

Photo by Alan Olson WLU Board of Governors chair Rich Lucas reads a prepared statement following a closed-door session Wednesday. University president W. Franklin Evans is seated at right.

WEST LIBERTY — After an hour and a half behind closed doors, West Liberty University’s Board of Governors decided Wednesday that the matter of plagiarism accusations against university President W. Franklin Evans will go to the university’s human resources department.

No other action was taken Wednesday against Evans, who was accused by numerous students and faculty members of plagiarizing parts of several speeches over the course of his first year as president. During Wednesday evening’s meeting of the Board of Governors, board members went into a closed-door session for around 95 minutes, before returning to announce that no formal action would be taken that night.

Board chair Rich Lucas read a statement saying the university’s human resources department would be handling the matter in a timely manner before returning the matter to the Board.

“The board will refer the matter to the human resources department of West Liberty University,” Lucas read from a prepared, handwritten statement. “Human resources will provide all requested information to the full board of governors with all pertinent materials. Human resources will come back to the board of governors after all requested information is reviewed. The board of governors will make a final resolution.

“The board of governors realizes there are notice requirements and timeframes for Freedom of Information Act (requests) and will move swiftly toward meeting our final information requests, and our final decision.”

The board adjourned immediately afterwards. Evans was not included among the board members for this discussion.

Earlier this month, Evans came under fire when it was discovered that the university’s president had lifted quotes, without attribution, from a variety of sources for his fall convocation speech on Sept. 15, a speech he gave on Juneteenth, and a speech he had given on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He subsequently apologized in a letter to the university.

During the faculty report portion of the meeting, board member Jason Metz read the results of a faculty survey, assessing the response of faculty members to Evans’ admissions of plagiarism. Sixty-six percent of the university’s 145 faculty members — around 95 people — responded.

“Eighty-six percent of the respondents felt like President Evans’ leadership has been compromised,” Metz read. “Forty-five percent believe the issues can be resolved through punitive action from the board of governors. Seventy-three percent, if they were asked to vote today, would argue a vote of no confidence in President Evans’ leadership. Sixty percent of those voting ‘no confidence’ would also vote as a request for resignation.”

Metz told the board that his presentation of the faculty survey was as a representative of the school’s faculty, and of the Faculty Senate.

The report indicated that Evans’ conduct had already begun affecting the university’s prospective attendees, and that students already enrolled saw Evans’ continued presence as a double standard.

“We feel the impact to our campus are already being felt. We also feel that Dr. Evans’ apology was a step in the right direction, but we do have actions and impacts on our campus that are already being felt,” he continued. “We have reports from those that provide tours to prospective students on campus, that their parents are questioning our academic integrity already.

“They are asking our leaders how we intend to enforce academic honesty in our students, and our leaders don’t have an answer to that, unfortunately. Some faculty have reported struggling to enforce our student code of conduct related to plagiarism, because they are citing a double standard on campus.

Metz also said that, though there was little proof to back it up, there were reports of impacts to the number of donors, and donor funding, to the West Liberty University Foundation, and also that applicants for employment at the university had withdrawn their offers in the last week.

Following the accusations of plagiarism, Evans described his failure to cite his sources as “an oversight and negligent,” and submitted a letter of apology to the university.

“I am the first to say for the convocation speech that I did share some information and I did not give credit. … It was an oversight and negligent and I apologize for it,” he said. “All I can say is that it was never my intent to give the impression that those were exactly my words. I neglected to identify where it came from and for that I am sorry. I will make sure it will not happen again.”

The school’s Faculty Senate formally accused Evans of plagiarism, saying he used portions of other people’s work in speeches without citing his sources. The Faculty Senate is slated to meet at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday via Zoom, according to WLU spokeswoman Maureen Zambito. The meeting is not open to the public.

The next meeting of the board is scheduled for Dec. 8

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