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to the principal (provost) at Oxford, LaPlaca was never granted a doctoral-level degree and her master's-level degree was revoked when she was found guilty of plagiarism.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.

19 Comments:

Blogger dscar said...

My frustration with the story can only be a shadow of an echo of your own, not being anywhere as close to the situation. However, I feel absolutely no sympathy for her. If I knew her in person, I would probably have felt outraged, even betrayed.

I *hate* plagiarists. People don't seem to understand why this is a bad thing (which could lead off into a tangent about the decay of moral responsibility, but that's best left for another time), why someone shouldn't just be able to build a career on someone else's work. Everything she has done since that moment of cheating has been a fraud, and as a result, she has been a fraud.

Personally, I don't care if she was desperate. That's the price you pay for cheating. What else could she have done? Hung it up. Called it a day. Find a new career. Hell, I managed to leave the safe confines of academia and I didn't have to be invited to leave in order to do it!

I'm willing to bet that the reason why she got the job in the first place at Kent was because American institutions are so desperate to show "diversity" that they'll gloss over minor details like credentials in order to get the numbers. It was a joke in grad school that for female candidates - especially female minority candidates - a doctoral degree was a license to print money.

I don't know Jaclyn, much less what her ethnic background is, but the point is that she took a job from someone who actually deserved it, worked for it, earned it. That's not just cheating; that's stealing.

11:48 PM  
Blogger anon said...

i had ms. laplaca as a teacher two semesters ago, and i can say with the utmost confidence that she was one of the best teachers i've ever had. she really knew and loved her subject, and it saddens me to hear that she was so desperate to spread her knowledge that she involved herself with plagiarism. her career is, sadly, in the gutter at this point, and i cannot imagine how she is suffering for this mistake.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Rod Carveth said...

Both comments reflect my thinking. Jaclyn did connect with students really well, and had a passion for teaching that shone through.

On the other hand, as time goes on, I get angrier about what she did. Jaclyn is not the only person out there with a passion for teaching. There are probably dozens in history alone -- who got their Ph.D.s without having to resort to plagiarism -- who are eeking out an existence teaching 5-6 sections of courses (at 2-3 schools) at $2,000 a course and no health benefits. Jaclyn had three undeserved years in two tenure track jobs.

I wish Jaclyn well -- in another profession. She has forever forfeited the right to a job in the academy.

7:37 PM  
Blogger muscle_manxx said...

Fuck you assholes...you don't know the whole story and i dont think anyone ever will...Dr. LaPlaca was and still is the most amazing person i've ever had as a teacher...and yes i will call her Dr. LaPlaca because she did more in her 1 year at marywood than some profs. that have been here 30+ years. To the writer of the article, what have done in the marywood/ scranton comunity lately that has brought the attention like some of the events dr. LaPlaca has?

FIND SOMETHING BETTER TO BLOG ABOUT!!!!

6:32 PM  
Blogger muscle_manxx said...

correction, she has done more here in her 1 year tenure track than you have done in your years as an ad"JUNK"ed professor.

Have fun getting tenured...

6:46 PM  
Blogger dscar said...

Obviously Ms. LaPlaca was so excellent a teacher that she managed to instill proper spelling and grammer in her students' work, in addition to rationed, reasoned presentation of ideas and cogent arguments.

Yup, she definitely raised the bar of quality in academia.

11:40 PM  
Blogger Rod Carveth said...

To Muscle_Manxx,

Talk about completing missing the point. Jaclyn did do a good job at Marywood during her first year. That's completely irrelevant to her engaging in plagiarism and then fabricating her credentials.

When you graduate -- and I certainly hope that you improve your writing and critical thinking skills before you go out into the work world -- it won't matter how good a job you do if you lie about your background. Lie about your background and your butt will be fired. Period.

12:58 AM  
Blogger Blogger said...

Somethings seems as though it is missing. Why did someone look her up??? She was an excellent teacher. Why was she ever questioned?? She took a group to Oxford, introduced faculty that taught her to Marywood students and introduced people that she graduated with to Marywood students. I know this for a fact!! Something does not add up.... How could information as to her graduating or not graduating be released so easy to someone random at Kent State?? Do you know the answer to any of these questions??

1:05 PM  
Blogger Rod Carveth said...

Blogger,

Some of the information you ask for is in my original post.

Some you can find at: http://www.stateronline.com/media/storage/paper867/news/2006/07/05/News/Ksu-Failed.To.Verify.ExProfessors.Degree-2120408.shtml?norewrite200608300723&sourcedomain=www.stateronline.com

There are other questions for which I do not have the answers, nor are they all that important for me to find out.

As far as the Oxford trip, I wasn't there. I have no idea if the people she graduated with were from her doctoral program or her master's program. If the latter, they probably didn't know. There's a good chance that many Oxford faculty would not know. Though I am speculating, I doubt there was a student newspaper at Oxford which would have covered the story the same way the Kent State paper did.

I think a more important question is why Marywood didn't ask more questions about her background when they hired her.

4:34 AM  
Blogger Blogger said...

Everything does not add up, In the Kent state articles or even in this one. I mean if you dig deep enough into everyone’s past, you will find dirt or lies. You can't deny she is wonderful and gave a great addition to history at Marywood. It’s unfortunate that this happened. Everyone does something wrong in his or her life, and to expose her like this is terrible. Its Maywood’s fault just as much as it is Jackie’s. I think it’s absurd to comment on this situation unless you are first hand. That includes Kent State and Jackie. If you knew her at all, for her sake you would stop the embarrassment and delete this post. I know she is hurting enough already. I mean if you really did know her at all, like you say you did.
She screwed up big time....everyone does in some nature or other. Who knows maybe something tragic was going on in her life when she was at school, that led her to plagiarise. No one should judge until you walk a mile in Jakies shoes, and then actually know the details.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Rod Carveth said...

Blogger,

Here's a comment that was posted on the Daily Kent Stater website:

*** Thank you for your honest posting. I am one of those dedicated teachers who really did finish a PhD and am scraping out an existence teaching part-time at several institutions. I have heard of the LaPlaca scandal only recently (today, actually!), and I am incensed. If anything, I am more incensed at the comments by people saying things like "But think of all the good she has done!" while she was guilty of acts that we would not tolerate from our students. I would like to see Kent State pursue a law suit for the 2 years salary she received under fraudlent circumstances. But, it won't happen because the University would not like the attention it would get. ***

What you fail to see is that Jaclyn committed the worst type of academic transgression -- she plagiarized. And, it wasn't just an article -- it was her master's thesis. She then compounded the problem by lying about having a master's degree and a doctoral degree.

What she did as a faculty member -- whether it be at IUP, Kent State or Marywood -- does not matter one bit because if she had been truthful about her academic credentials, she *never would have had the opportunity* to be a popular teacher or engage in the variety of activities with students that she did.

Thus, her actions are unfortunate on two levels. First, Jaclyn obviously had many qualities that would have allowed her to be a terrific college professor -- except integrity.

Second, students at three institutions -- IUP, Kent State-Stark and Marywood -- were denied an opportunity to learn from a history professor with legitimate qualifications, one whose qualities may have met or exceeded those of Jaclyn LaPlaca.

1:34 PM  
Blogger muscle_manxx said...

I do see your point about her plagiarising, its also funny how your original post is alot like the kent stater article. i personally feel that, though her qualifications were not real, i learned as well with her as i have with any other professor at marywood. I also know first hand about the oxford trip...and i agree that things just do not add up in this whole mess.

3:44 PM  
Blogger dscar said...

It's not clear what is meant by "things do not add up." While the thought had crossed my mind as to the motivation for the student paper to investigate Ms. LaPlaca, ultimately it doesn't really matter.

Suppose for the moment that someone at Kent State - where the story broke - was a former student and had an axe to grind. There is nothing to indicate this, of course: this is merely supposition.

Perhaps the person from Kent was doing a routine followup of active or recently active professors.

Perhaps LaPlaca slipped up and tipped off her terrible secret to a faculty member who then anonymously contacted Oxford. Perhaps she insulted someone on staff.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

The issue here is not allowing ourselves to be distracted by the reporting of the event in order to judge the event itself. Second-guessing the motivation of her accusers becomes relevant only if there is some discrepancy over whether or not Ms. LaPlaca may have done what she did.

In this case, there is no such discrepancy. There is no contention about the facts - in this rare instance, things are very straightforward. Placing blame at the feet of the reporter, or the anonymous tipster, or Oxford, or Kent, or Marywood, or Rod Carveth is not only futile but attempts to absolve or mitigate LaPlaca's own responsibility.

Of course, it is LaPlaca's accountability that is the issue, though. As a commenter posted on the Chronicle of Higher Education story, the fact that she was a likeable person does not guarantee or even imply that she was a good teacher. The fact that she has a fan following may help her emotional state - that is to say, it'd be good for her to know that the people that she taught still like her - but it does not imply that there is a justification or validation of her being in the classroom in the first place.

Why? Because being likable does not ensure being a good teacher, and even being a good teacher doesn't mean that she should have had the job. There are, as have been indicated before, many people who work extremely hard at being great academicians and great teachers.

Think about the person who was "runner up," for instance. The person who was honest about their qualifications, who worked hard for their accomplishments, but lost out in an unfair contest because the winner cheated!

If LaPlaca was not to be punished, dragged through the public humiliation (as one writer laments), then what would be the motivation for doing what you're supposed to? Why bother trying hard at all? Why bother doing the right thing? If, like the person LaPlaca stole the position from, you are merely going to be cast aside because someone was a more convincing fraud, then why not be a fraud yourself?

What would be the result? People being taught by those who were merely the best at conning others, being the best fraud you could be, and then there would be no way of determining what was genuine or what was merely the best facade.

The Chronicle also states that LaPlaca's offer at the museum in Florida had been rescinded. Good. It's time for her to give up on any academic-related career. Perhaps she could be a tour guide, where reading someone else's words would be write (pun intended) up her alley.

3:21 AM  
Blogger anonynmous said...

dscar.....here's an idea why don't u go sit on a stiff one (pun intended) motherfucker

2:01 PM  
Blogger mu_best said...

I have stayed out of this and been an avid bystander...until now.

Firstly, MR. Carveth, I do want you to know that I have enjoyed watching your reputation plunge, not only as an individual, but as a so called "academic professional."

As a tenured faculty member, with a Ph.D., I feel that your acts on this blog have been nothing but immoral kitty antics to hide behind your immature exsistence.

At this point, I would like to address a few issues.

Firstly, as a influential writer of idiotic blogs, you are probably aware that plagarism does indeed have drastic consequences....so, my question is why did you feel the need to plagarize on your blog? Your original post, you know the one where you brought down a competent individual, was clearly copied and pasted from the Star Reporter. I am sure if I were to call and ask if you had bought the rights to the article, they would clearly deny. In this light, you are gulty of the same crime that Jackie was.

Secondly, I want you to know that I am in the process of drafting a letter to the President of the University and the President of the Board of Trustees (this is not a threat by any means, rather a promise). The reason is because the whole campus community has seen the online news portal that you obiously gave information to. Well sir, since Marywood University did not give an official statement, you are giving falsified information to a third party, an act that is immoral, unethical, and grounds for termination at this school. Because you see, now Marywood University is in the spotlight. Is that what you really want for our students?? Especially since we have worked so hard to acclaim national status as a distinguished center for learning?

Lastly, I want you to have your news article class do an assignment (one that does not include the continuence of dragging down someone's integrity) and that would be to research the law on SLANDER, DEFAMATION, and LOSS OF CONSORTIUM. I don't know where Jackie is or if she reads this filth (God I hope not), but I would encourage her to bring suite against you.

Because of the notorious chaos that your blog has posed, the academic community, students, and Jackie cannot move on. I hope you feel good about the fact that Jackie had her fellowship revoked on account of you.

The press are asking for statements and Marywood's image is being tarnished every day because of your IDIOT-APPROACH of slandering an individual.

Thank you!

3:59 PM  
Blogger dscar said...

Loss of Consortium?!

Oh my, that's funny. I'm going to be laughing about that one for days now...

4:09 PM  
Blogger Rod Carveth said...

mu_best,

That was a very funny satire of an intelligent response.

4:47 PM  
Blogger john Smith said...

hahaha okay gentleman...as I use the term loosely. Cut the nonsense, and act like adults.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Aurora said...

talk about plagiarism- this is a Biggie, I just went through about 98 pages of Laplaca's book, Somerset County: Beauty beyond the mountains which was published in 2003 and found that she copied, in most instances, word for word and paragraph for paragraph from the 1996 book, Miners of Windber

3:04 PM  

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