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West Liberty chairman promises probe of president’s plagiarism will continue

West Liberty’s board of governors took no immediate action on plagiarism allegations surrounding the university’s new president, but promised to keep looking into the matter.

After an executive session lasting more than an hour, board of governors chairman Rich Lucas promised to “move swiftly to a resolution.”

This was the university’s first board of governors meeting since members of the Faculty Senate concluded new President Franklin W. Evans committed plagiarism in multiple instances, including a recent convocation speech.

The controversy has drawn attention in West Virginia, as well as nationally through coverage by Inside Higher Ed.

W. Franklin Evans

Evans has served as president for less than a year after being hired in November, 2020, to lead the college in Ohio County. He started this past Jan. 1, becoming West Liberty’s first black president.

Lucas said the matter will be assigned to the university’s human resources department but that “the board of governors will make the final resolution.”

Trouble emerged after a Sept. 15 fall convocation speech made by Evans. The speech included uncredited tips from personal finance writer Robert Farrington’s “5 Tips For College Freshmen to Help Maximize Year One,” originally published online at Forbes this summer.

After questions arose from faculty and students, Evans wrote in a letter that he had not been careful to credit the original source.

In a broad-ranging presentation of university matters this afternoon, Evans made only brief mention of the incident while talking generally about convocation. He acknowledged that his remarks included source material “that I did not cite.”

“I did send out information to the university family – I think you probably received it as well – detailing what occurred and apologizing for not doing so,” he said today.

Over recent weeks, faculty continued to examine some of the president’s other public presentations, with a full discussion by the faculty senate on Sept. 21. The full Senate went over the speeches, comparing original source material, and determined that Evans had committed plagiarism on at least four occasions.

One was the convocation speech. The Faculty Senate noted that Evans had directed an archived video to be edited and updated with citations of source material.

Another was a speech from this summer commemorating Juneteenth, with uncredited language from sources like the Smithsonian and The New York Times. Yet another was a speech this year honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with uncredited wording from sources like National Public Radio. And another was a “Lunch with Books” presentation at an area library.

The full faculty senate, though, concluded that the instances are quite serious, particularly in an academic setting. Some faculty members pushed for a no-confidence vote and for Evans’s resignation, but others favored moving on.

At today’s meeting, faculty representative Jason Metz described a survey showing that large percentages of faculty “feel President Evans’ leadership has been compromised.” Faculty have become concerned that parents are losing confidence in academic integrity and that the goodwill of donors could be shaken too.

Although President Evans’ apology is a step in the right direction, he said, “We feel the impacts to our campus are already being felt.”

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