Thursday, August 31, 2006

Idiot Excuses for Bad Behavior

I generally don't get many responses to my blog, but the latest one on Jaclyn LaPlaca has resulted in posts not only to this site, but in email to my account.

The general tone of the responses has been that 1) Jaclyn was a good teacher, so she should get a break; 2) We don't know all the facts, so we shouldn't say anything about it; 3) Jaclyn really didn't hurt anyone, so why should there be a fuss; and 4) I am a mean rotten person, so I really shouldn't post anything about her.

While #4 is certainly arguable, the first three positions are not. From all indications, Jaclyn was a good teacher. So what? Had the truth been known about her, she never would have had the opportunity to be a good teacher. In addition, my friend Claire (who is also a college professor) had a brilliant insight on this: "All we seem to hear is 'Bush is a great guy to have a beer with.' It's the same type of response. I don't want to drink beer with my president; I want to have a president that can lead. I don't want my professors to be frauds because there is too much at stake." She's absolutely right.

We don't know all the facts? True, but we know enough facts. Jaclyn plagiarized her thesis. She lacks a master's degree and a doctoral degree. Those are enough facts to say that she does not qualify for a tenure track faculty position in history.

Jaclyn didn't really hurt someone? Oh? What about anyone who applied for the history jobs at IUP, Kent State and Marywood that Jaclyn got fraudulently? They were certainly harmed. Not to mention that when someone plagiarizes and then lies about her credentials that it diminishes the academic profession.

Having known Jaclyn, I believe her not to be a bad person, but someone who engaged in bad behavior. I sincerely wish her well -- but in another line of work.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Idiot Attempt to Fabricate Credentials

As I've indicated before, I don't talk about my workplace too often, but this is a sad story.

Last year was my first year at Marywood. During the fall semester, the group of new faculty would go out from time to time. One of those new faculty was a new history professor, Jaclyn LaPlaca. She had previously taught at Kent State-Stark, and had her master's and doctorate from Oxford.

Jaclyn really was doing well at Marywood. Students loved her. She accompanied students to Guatemala for a service-learning trip. She had begun a major oral history project of Scranton-area World War II veterans, getting their recollections on video, and having a public presentation of their remembrances.

Unfortunately, Jaclyn won't be back at Marywood this year. Turns out, according to the principal (provost) at Oxford, LaPlaca was never granted a doctoral-level degree and her master's-level degree was revoked when she was found guilty of plagiarism. Because of the plagiarism, Oxford expelled LaPlaca.

How Jaclyn was able to get the job at Kent State-Stark is a bit murky. Oxford provides certificates, not transcripts, of graduate work. Apparently, Jaclyn included a copy of her Doctorate of Philosophy certificate from Oxford, their equivalent of a doctorate degree, when she accepted the position at Kent State. When she applied, she said she had defended her thesis and was waiting for faculty approval. Instead, Oxford had asked Jaclyn to return the certificate they had given her before she was expelled, but she had not. It is unclear how she had such a document in the first place.

Just as Jaclyn was leaving Kent State-Stark, someone at the Stark campus had anonymously contacted Oxford questioning her degree completion, Frances Lannon, the principal at Oxford, contacted Gayle Ormiston, Kent State's associate provost for faculty affairs, in August 2005 to inform him that Jaclyn did not have any graduate degrees from Oxford. Ormiston did not take any action against Jaclyn, or even inform Marywood at the time. The story broke in the Kent State newspaper, the Daily Kent Stater, about six weeks ago. Normally, no one would notice a student newspaper during the summer, but Kent State's is online. Shortly afterwards, even Marywood students were submitting comments about Jaclyn's story to the Daily Kent Stater website (welcome to the Internet Age!). Once the story became that public, Jaclyn's fate was sealed.

I want to shout at her, "What were you thinking? Did you really think you could get away with it? How fair is it that you had a tenure track job in a field where many with legitimate credentials are having to teach adjunct at two-three schools just to make ends meet?"

Then again, what else was she to do? She either kept up the ruse or gave up her career. She was desperate.

The softie in me wishes there was some way to keep her -- reduce her in rank to instructor, take her off the tenure track, cut her salary, etc. Of course, that's impossible. It would be a terrible message to students -- both the fabrication of her credentials and the plagiarism.

It's too bad that someone who had so much promise finds her career in tatters.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Idiot Lieberman Candidacy

Joe Lieberman lost the CT senate democratic party nomination to Ned Lamont last night.

The loss was significant. The margin of victory for Lamont was not overwhelming (4%), but given that no one gave Lamont a chance six weeks ago, this was a major upset. In addition, this was not a fluke of a small turnout of zealots turning out for an insurgent candidate. The turnout was over 40%, a record for a senate primary.

Until Lieberman's concession speech last night, I had mixed emotions about the outcome. I really wanted Lieberman to win a very tight race. In that way, Lamont could have sent a message to a candidate (Lieberman) who ran a campaign as if he was *entitled* to the job. Joe Lieberman has been a good senator for CT, and though his support of President Bush has troubled me, on balance, he is an asset for his state and his nation.

Then I saw his concession speech last night. It communicated "sore loser." Rather than congratulating Lamont for running a better campaign, he attacked his opponent. He also declared that he was continuing his race as an independent, even going so far as to shamelessly ask for donations from out-of-state contributors. It was a sad and classless performance from someone who generally acts with class.

Joe Lieberman should do the right thing and leave the scene. He lost and he lost fair and square. He took the voters of CT for granted and they let him know they didn't like it.