SIU president cleared of plagiarism charges, set to finish five-year term

By Jim Suhr

CARBONDALE, Ill. – The 1984 doctoral dissertation of Southern Illinois University’s president included “inadvertent or unintended” plagiarism that can be easily remedied without costing him his job, a review panel said Thursday.

Glenn Poshard, at times choking back tears, welcomed the findings by the seven-member panel as the resolution of plagiarism claims that have dogged him for weeks, and prompted unsuccessful calls by some for his ouster.

“I feel a sense of relief that this is finally coming to a close,” Poshard, a former five-term congressman and one-time Democratic candidate for Illinois governor, told reporters.

The university’s board of trustees – ardent backers of Poshard throughout the flap over his graduate work decades ago – agreed that Poshard would stay put.

“Dr. Poshard is a man of great personal integrity and he will remain our president with full board support,” said Roger Tedrick, the board’s chairman. “His energy, passion and commitment to this university is unsurpassed, (and) he continues to be the right man to lead the SIU system” of roughly 35,000 students.

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Under his five-year contract, Poshard could have been fired if the trustees found that his conduct constituted “moral turpitude, or that would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule upon the university.”

Siding with Poshard’s insistence that he made “honest mistakes,” the review panel of members of key faculty constituency groups at the Carbondale school found that many problems with his dissertation reflected citation styles back then.

“While the (citation) style was agreed to between Dr. Poshard and his dissertation committee at that time, it would not be recommended today,” said Ramanarayanan Viswanathan, the school’s Faculty Senate president who headed the panel created by the chancellor, Fernando Trevino.

The issue “must be understood in its historical context,” according to the panel’s report.

Still, Tedrick, the rest of the trustees and Poshard pledged to draft a comprehensive, thorough plagiarism policy that Tedrick hopes will become a model elsewhere across the country.