Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Two NKU professors resign

Another fired; investigation uncovers research misconduct

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS - Two Northern Kentucky University business school professors resigned Tuesday and a third was fired after an 18-month investigation into allegations of research misconduct.

NKU's board of regents reviewed a three-ring binder of findings that said papers published by five faculty members from 1995 to 2001 were either plagiarized, fabricated, falsified or involved serious deviations from accepted research practices.

As a result, finance professors Anju and Balasubramani Ramjee, who are married, gave their resignations. Economics professor Richard Snyder was fired. And economics professor Louis Noyd's intention to retire at the end of the academic year was made public. A fifth person involved in the investigation, Shailendra Verma, former chairman of the finance department, resigned in February.

On campus, students expressed shock after hearing the news. Justin Braxton-Brown, a 23-year-old in the MBA program, was a student of Balasubramani Ramjee and Noyd.

"It does surprise me a little," the Florence native said. "When I had them as teachers, they were really good and seemed to be on top of it. It's obviously going to have a negative backlash on the school, but it will be more local. I don't think it will deter students from coming here. It will be more of a head-shaking."

NKU president James Votruba reassured faculty and the community by saying the findings would have minimal impact on the growing university of more than 13,700 students. The review process, he said, worked as it was designed.

"The action taken today should reassure the public that the university and its board of regents are committed to taking whatever steps necessary to ensure our continued public trust," he said.

Highlights from the findings show that 12 papers duplicated material. Evidence showed an entire paper being recycled. Three were significantly plagiarized from authors not affiliated with NKU. And others listed the names of NKU professors as authors though they didn't participate in the research.

The findings clearly delineate varying degrees of responsibility for each professor, calling the research record of Verma and the Ramjees "an academic fraud" and Noyd's role "unprofessional" though not rising to the level of research misconduct.

The Ramjees sued Verma in Warren County Common Please Court earlier this year, saying the former department head deceived them about research he said he was conducting. The Ramjees claim that Verma would ask for help in the developmental stages of the work but decline assistance with data collection, statistical analysis or writing of the paper. The Ramjees names were then used at Verma's sole discretion, the suit says.

But the findings conclude the Ramjees share responsibility in the fabrication or falsification of research results.

Universities across the country have dealt with academic misconduct by faculty, but this investigation marked the first time in NKU's history that the peer review process was triggered for such an offense. It began with a complaint sent to Mike Carrell, dean of the business college, in February 2002 that raised the possibility of research misconduct in six faculty papers. Later, a committee of three full-time, tenured professors spent hundreds of hours over several months collecting documents, interviewing witnesses and reviewing evidence submitted by the professors.


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