MU considers policy on degree revocation

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- Faculty council groups from the University of Missouri system are in the early stages of considering formalizing a policy to revoke degrees.

Leona Rubin, chairwoman of University of Missouri's Faculty Council, said she mentioned the need for a degree revocation process during a general faculty council meeting earlier this month.

Rubin told The Columbia Daily Tribune the discussion about formalizing the procedure is just beginning and likely will be handled first within the Intercampus Faculty Council, the body that represents all four campuses.

Bill Wiebold, a University of Missouri professor who chairs the Intercampus Faculty Council, said the group will first need to get information from the university system's academic office and seek legal advice.

"It's important," he said. "It's not a trivial process."

The university has revoked degrees before, said Brenda Selman, director of the registrar's office. But she said there are no written guidelines about the process. The revocations are handled on a case-by-case basis.

Selman said she didn't know specifics of what degrees have been revoked, only that those graduates were found to have not met degree requirements.

Rubin said the fact degrees have been revoked without written policies is even more reason for faculty groups to develop written guidelines.

"Without a formal process, it might leave the university open to litigation if it's a questionable case," she said.

Rubin pointed to two cases that raised concerns. Paige Laurie, whose family lives in Columbia, surrendered her degree to the University of Southern California in 2005, after a roommate claimed to have been paid $20,000 to do Laurie's homework.

Rubin also noted the 2007 case where a Missouri postdoctoral researcher, Kaushik Deb, manipulated research images to draw false conclusions. Although Deb's fraud happened during post-graduate activities, not when Deb was a student, Rubin said it highlighted another form of academic dishonesty.

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