Top administrator fired for plagiarism at Kean

Some faculty members are noticing similarities to president’s past scandal which resulted in no penalty

UCL-kean file photo6-CUNION COUNTY — The employment of one of Kean University’s top administrators ended abruptly late last week after being accused of “plagiarism on a massive scale” by the teachers union.

According to a complaint filed with Kean University President Dawood Farahi Nov. 13 by James Castiglione who is an Associate Professor of Physics and President of the Kean Federation of Teachers union, it was evident Kean’s associate vice president of academic affairs, Katerina Andriotis copied the majority of a 15-page campus enrollment report from documents authored by the University of Tennessee and Center for Study of College Student Retention.

Still unclear is whether the associate vice president of academic affairs was fired by the university or quit when the plagiarism accusation came to light last week. Efforts to uncover what actually took place hit a dead end when calls to the university administration offices were not returned. However, according to multiple university sources, including professors and a source in administration, Andriotis was fired at 4 p.m. on Nov. 14.

Tuesday, Castiglione said the removal of Andriotis for plagiarism is the latest in a troubling string of academic fraud incidents by university officials.

“The Kean Federation of Teachers is being forced to act as guardian of the university’s board of trustee-mandated ethical standards,” said Castiglione. “We teach or students to be ethical and scrupulous and we expect our university officials to be held to the same standards. It is unconscionable that a culture of academic fraud persists among Kean’s highest administrators.”

Castiglione said Andriotis was “not well liked” because of the way she handled student registration issues, specifically the mass cancellation of classes that took place this year.

Also at issue was the fact the associate vice president of academic affairs, said Castiglione, “was the driving force behind pending designation,” or the creation of a course that was assigned to a staff member, but put on the pending list, which meant students never knew about it.
“It’s important to note she was second in command in academic affairs, which is the very office tasked with overseeing academic integrity,” the KFT president said, pointing out that it was “shocking this could have occurred under the nose of Vice President of Academic Affairs Jeff Toney.”

Castiglione, who represents hundreds of teachers at Kean, was disheartened by the latest administration integrity issue, speaking openly about the impact this will have into the future.

“A university’s reputation stands or falls on the integrity of its administrators and faculty. The persistent unethical conduct of high level university officials must be addressed by Kean’s Board of Trustees without equivocation,” Castiglione said, adding “or else Kean University will lose what remains of its reputation as a fine university.”

The KFT president also called on the governor to step in before the integrity of the university is damaged any further.
“The faculty and staff implore Gov. Chris Christie to once and for all correct the academic integrity problem at the administration’s very top level,” said Castiglione.

One professor, who preferred not using their name, pointed out the key issue was not the firing but rather the “double standard” at Kean. This tenured employee felt both Andriotis and Farahi committed the same type of academic offense, but the board of trustees was inconsistent when applying the measure.
In addition to voicing complaints about the unfairness of this, the Kean University professor said this inconsistency infringes on Middle States accreditation Standard 6 regulating integrity.
“In Farahi’s case, the board’s claim was that the Academic Integrity Policy applied only to students is demonstrably false. We have the document to show that,” the professor said.

In filing the complaint with Farahi, Castiglione followed procedures set in the university’s academic integrity policy, adopted by the Kean Board of Trustees in June 2012 following the scandal involving the university president falsifying his academic resume. Castiglione said Andriotis violated the policy when she copied a report on recommendations of the Kean University Enrollment Management Committee, passing it off as her own.

The report, approved by Farahi in the fall, Castiglione said, involved a multitude of “copying another person’s words directly without acknowledging the source, using another’s ideas, opinions or theories, and using facts, statistics or other material taken from a source with acknowledging the source.”

Monday Castiglione noted in a memo to KFT Bargaining Unit Members, a copy of which LocalSource obtained, that the union was provided with the information that appeared to show plagiarism and after investigating and confirming the severity of the issue, he consulted the university’s academic integrity policy. The policy was approved by the board of trustees in June 2012 in the aftermath of Farahi’s resume fraud scandal when it surfaced that there was an academic integrity policy for students, but not administrators or teachers. Based on the information he had supporting the case of plagiarism, Castiglione filed the complaint with the university president. He fully expected an investigator would be assigned to the case, followed by the university conducting its own investigation, but that never happened. Within two days Andriotis was gone.
According to the memo sent to KFT members, a paragraph on the first page of Andriotis’s report, which laid out the enrollment committee’s purpose, appeared to be copied word for word from a University of Tennessee website.

Fully nine-pages of Andriotis report were almost verbatim from a 1995 journal article titled Parkland College Enrollment Management Model, which referred to strategies at a community college in Illinois. The paper also included a graphic from a Parkland College study, Castiglione said, which comes to an almost identical conclusion as in Andriotis’s report.

This is yet another blow to the state university’s academic integrity, which took its first hit in the fall of 2011 when the faculty union accused Farahi of lying on his academic resume. Although the Kean Federation of Teachers and students demanded he be dismissed, the university president managed to survive the uproar that catapulted the university into the national spotlight for many months. In the end, Farahi received the stamp of approval by the Kean Board of Trustees to continue the university’s leader as well as a new five-year contract that cemented the deal.

On the back burner is the tenure battle that was left hanging as a result of the latest academic integrity issue.
Last week LocalSource wrote that the potential tenure of 9 out of ten Kean faculty members was in jeopardy as a result of Toney, the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Kean, giving a negative recommendation. This came on the heels of all ten faculty members receiving unanimous or near unanimous votes at the departmental and college levels. As a result of Toney’s action, the KFT union action includes an upcoming vote of no confidence in the Office of Academic Affairs by the KFT union.

“The attempted mass firing of 90 percent of the highly qualified faculty up for tenure by Jeff Toney is only the latest string of failed polices, botched initiatives, blunders and inept management that have left the institution in a state of academic dysfunction to the detriment of students and faculty alike,” said Castiglione, adding the vote of no confidence will be conducted by the independent Arbitration Association, “the gold standard of secret balloting,” which was expected to take place today.