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West Liberty University Board Must Address Plagiarism Charge Against W. Franklin Evans

Let’s tackle this first: in no way is the head of the Human Resources Department at West Liberty University — who herself is a member of President W. Franklin Evans’ cabinet, making Evans her direct supervisor — equipped to properly handle accusations of plagiarism against Evans.

Instead, to be fair to the university, its employees and, frankly, to Evans, the West Liberty University’s Board of Governors should have requested an outside investigation into the plagiarism accusations levied against Evans by the university’s Faculty Senate.

That approach would have answered the key charge here: did plagiarism take place, and to what extent. That would have allowed the board to best determine how the university moves forward with Evans.

To recap, Evans, nine months into his new job, has been accused of plagiarizing all or parts of several speeches he’s delivered either at West Liberty or in the local region. He’s admitted to using sections from another writer during a convocation speech delivered last month without attribution, calling it an oversight.

The crux of the problem, though, comes in one of Evans’ responses to this newspaper when asked if students who plagiarize should be given a second chance. Evans gave our reporter a less-than-clear answer, and only noted the university should follow the student handbook in handing out a punishment.

So judging by Evans’ answer, he believes in a second chance for himself, but a student who does something similar?

Not so much.

When the president of a university holds himself to a lower standard than the students he is employed to help educate and prepare for life, that’s a major problem.

This situation is potentially damaging to West Liberty. The board needs to weigh just how these accusations, if proven correct as levied by the faculty senate, could harm the university’s reputation.

Consider the comments from Jason Metz, a West Liberty professor and member of the board of governors who presented the findings of a faculty survey on Evans: “Eighty-six percent of the respondents felt like President Evans’ leadership has been compromised,” Metz told the board. “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.”

Plagiarism is plagiarism, whether you’re a student or a college president. Ultimately, West Liberty’s governors cannot pass on their responsibility.

They must determine, from an investigation done by those outside the university, if plagiarism took place, the extent of that plagiarism and what action they must take.

The board must act now on these accusations.

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