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31 August 2007
Town & Gown:
Integrity in Communications

Reprinted here in its entirety.

By Dr. William A. Meehan
President, Jacksonville State University
Weekly Column - Town and Gown

As many of you are aware, recent Town & Gown articles published in this newspaper under my byline contained plagiarized material. These articles were ghostwritten by the recently retired director of JSU’s News Bureau. As President of Jacksonville State University, I acknowledge and accept full responsibility for this breach of professionalism and ethics. Plagiarism is unethical conduct. It is abhorred within a university and should never be tolerated. It is diametrically opposed to the standards of our academic community.

When first informed of this issue, I immediately asked the University’s vice president for institutional advancement to investigate the article’s authenticity. When it was revealed that a staff member had in fact plagiarized, I requested an Integrity in Communications Committee be formed, comprised of members of diverse backgrounds from within and from outside the University, to investigate the charges of plagiarism and to present its findings and make recommendations as to the integrity of University communications.

I want to assure you that this committee acted in absolute autonomy and transparency. Their meetings were conducted in open session with members of the press present.

This past Friday, the committee presented their findings and recommendations to me. A copy of the report was also provided to members of the University Board of Trustees.

Additionally, a copy of the report was made available to the media. The full report is also posted on the University’s web site. I want to express my sincere gratitude to each member of the committee for their professionalism and insight.

I will take steps to ensure that the committee’s recommendations are implemented. We will be hiring a new director of public relations soon. The individual hired for this position must be a person of the highest professional and ethical standards who is unconditionally committed to journalistic and academic integrity.

Additionally, the office of public relations will develop, through a committee process representing a variety of disciplines, a mission statement and “code of ethics” that will reflect its function as a news bureau, public information office, a public relations office and training site for students. I will also create a broad-based University Committee from a variety of disciplines to review academic integrity. The purpose would be to ensure that the definition of academic honesty and integrity is consistent in policy and practice across campus and reflects the highest ethical standards.

This has been a very difficult and embarrassing process for the University and to me personally. We will use these experiences to improve the integrity of the University’s communications and the experience we offer our students. I invite you now to read the Integrity in Communications Committee’s Final Report here.

About William A. Meehan

Dr. William A. Meehan is president of Jacksonville State University. His column, "Town & Gown," appears in The Jacksonville News.

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