Update on Alleged Degree Fraud at UofL

It’s the John Deasy moment you’ve all been waiting for. Let’s read the latest message from University of Louisville President Jim Ramsey and Provost Shirley Willihnganz. Warning: It’s lengthy.

Long story short, Jim & Shirley say there was nothing wrong with John Deasy’s Ph.D. during the Robert Felner scandal.

We want your thoughts at the end.

Here you go:


For the past few months, we have been examining many of our policies and procedures in light of actions surrounding the former dean of the College of Education and Human Development.

While we have taken all of the issues seriously, one allegation struck at the heart of the Academy: the accusation that we inappropriately awarded a graduate degree to one of the former dean’s students.

We immediately convened a Blue Ribbon Panel comprised of faculty, community members and students to review the award of this 2004 degree from the College of Education and Human Development. We shared the following with the Board of Trustees:

“Based upon the totality of the circumstances and information available, it is evident that waivers were granted by the then-graduate dean which permitted the student to register and defend his dissertation in one semester. The dissertation defense before a committee of University of Louisville CEHD faculty was successful, and the degree was subsequently awarded.

“The degree stands; no further action will be taken.

Read the rest of this lengthy letter after the jump…

“Because of the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects a student from the release of information about his or her academic record, we will not comment further.”

This decision concludes our review and confirms the integrity of our degree granting process. We do not give away degrees.

While we cannot go into more details of the student’s record, we can say the following.

The Blue Ribbon Panel appointed as part of this process conducted a lengthy and thorough review.

Part of their review included an examination of doctoral degrees awarded over the past 10 years. This review confirmed that in very rare instances, almost always when student well-being was at issue, the graduate dean acted within his authority to grant waivers. This is consistent with information presented to SACS during our reaccreditation review last year. The review of the discretion to grant waivers illuminated the need to clarify that a dean’s discretion cannot be exercised in such a manner that a dean, or deans in consultation with only each other, can make decisions without the faculty and unit consultation. That shared governance is a core value for us. The Blue Ribbon Panel review reinforces our earlier decision that we needed to reconstitute the graduate school to increase oversight and accountability.

Among the changes that we have made in graduate education at UofL are the following: We created a new school of graduate and interdisciplinary studies which required more shared responsibility for graduate education with the schools and colleges; a dean of graduate and interdisciplinary studies as well as a vice provost for same; a new set of by-laws and roles for the graduate faculty; and a clearer set of areas of responsibility for both the graduate school and the units.

Among the changes instituted or currently being voted through were those that changed the authority of the graduate dean so that he or she could no longer allow certain types of exemptions and variances in graduate student programs without explicit request for such from: the student, the student’s faculty mentor, any involved department chair, the student’s enrollment unit dean or designee and the University Provost or designee. This change and others will guarantee that the integrity of our degree-granting process is transparent and inclusive, as it should be.

As we mentioned at the start of this note, the review of the degree was one of six processes we launched last fall to address issues raised during a federal investigation into the former dean of our College of Education and Human Development. While our work in these areas is not complete, the committees all have shared their findings and made recommendations to the administration. In each case, changes are being made or are in the process of being implemented, or we are identifying funding and the appropriate policy actions. In each case, we, and the Board of Trustees, are taking the recommendations with the highest level of seriousness to ensure that we strengthen the university going forward.

Here’s where we stand with the other five areas:

1. An internal audit of the finances of the College. Audit Services completed its review. The audit uncovered issues in five areas: Contracting, financial controls, payroll controls, sponsored project compliance, and security over sensitive information. The audit also showed that predominantly the issues are the result of non-compliance with existing university policies and procedures. The college has developed and implemented work plans to correct the issues, and Audit Services will monitor their progress. The audit is available at: http://louisville.edu/advancement/files/audit.pptx.

2. An external audit of the university’s grants management and contracts practices. An outside firm, Cotton and Allen, reviewed the university’s grants management and contracts practices and presented three key conclusions:
a. Generally policies and procedures appear to be consistent with best practices and similar research universities.
b. Application of the policies and procedures could be improved.
c. Future growth could present issues based upon the university’s current infrastructure.

Cotton and Allen did make recommendations for review and change in seven areas. We appointed a task force, chaired by David Barker, director of audit services, to review and develop plans to address the recommendations. That committee made its recommendations to the Board of Trustees on March 3, and we have already begun to implement. For example, we have begun to develop a unit business manager training program, have outlined a university wide compliance program that will go into effect in the fall, and have reassigned staff to be sure that the grants management process is coordinated from beginning to end. The report is available at http://louisville.edu/advancement/files/response.pptx.

3. A Faculty Senate review of our faculty grievance procedure. We received the report (posted at http://louisville.edu/gov/facultysenate/GPRC%20Final.htm) and have taken the following actions:
a. The provost has appointed a committee to look at potential Redbook changes that will improve the grievance procedure.
b. We created an ombuds office and appointed Dennis Hall as interim ombudsman. The office has been well-received; Dr. Hall actually began receiving calls before the office was fully operational.

4. A review, requested by our Faculty, Staff and Student senates, on managerial and administrative practices. The committee has completed its report and shared it with us. We presented it to the Board of Trustees, who approved it. Because of similar recommendations from other committees, we have asked the provost’s office to collate the recommendations, which we will review and share with the campus community. The committee’s report is available at: http://louisville.edu/gov/facultysenate/ShareGov.htm.

5. A review of the conflict of interest policy and proposal of a values statement. We have received proposed changes to the conflict of interest policy and a proposed values statement from the committee and have forwarded them to the Compliance Oversight Council for its review. Those documents will be distributed to the university community soon. The remaining issue, the criminal charges filed against the former dean, will be decided in the federal courts.

In each case we have carefully reviewed our practices, policies and procedures. We have renewed our commitment to our values as a university. This process has not been easy, but we will emerge as a stronger institution.

We would like to thank all of the committees for their hard work and dedication to improving the university. And we would like to thank all of our faculty, staff and students – and particularly those in the College of Education and Human Development – for your efforts and your support as we have worked through a challenging situation this year.

James R. Ramsey

Shirley C. Willihnganz
Executive Vice President and Provost


So, what are your thoughts?

We’ll say this: We have heard a number of stories about fraudulent degrees at the University. We’ve reported on a few of them. And we plan to continue reporting on them/get threatened with lawsuits from UofL.

But this explanation from the powers that be at the University of Louisville really takes the cake. Pages and pages to deny wrongdoing? And so many words not to explain what actually went down with John Deasy?

If something is enough of a problem that you have to implement tons of changes, it’s clearly not a-okay.