A high-ranking University of Illinois at Chicago official has lost his position in the wake of a lawsuit accusing the school of violating federal education law by publicly discussing a dissertation and accusations of plagiarism, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
Longtime UIC administrator, Lon Kaufman — vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost since appointed by Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares in August 2011 — was recently returned to his status as a tenured professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, according to sources.
As provost, Kaufman, who joined UIC as an assistant professor some 30 years ago, was second in command under Allen-Meares. He was the university’s chief operating and chief academic officer, responsible for prioritizing and securing resources for campus programs, and developing and overseeing academic policy, priorities and initiatives with faculty, according to the university’s website.
Reached for comment on the recent development, UIC spokesman Bill Burton would only say: “Professor Kaufman is a tenured member of our faculty.” Kaufman could not be immediately reached for comment.
The July 21 lawsuit, filed by Chicago State University’s interim provost and senior vice president, Angela Henderson, accused UIC of violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act — referred to as FERPA — by publicly discussing her dissertation while a student at UIC and an accusation of plagiarism made by an adversary.
The act, known as FERPA, bars schools from releasing private information on student academics without permission.
Earlier this year, UIC officials confirmed in media reports that the school was reviewing the dissertation of Henderson, 48, who earned her Ph.D. in nursing from the school in August 2013. That review occurred after UIC was contacted by a Chicago State professor.
Burton said in January that CSU History Professor Robert Bionaz alleged parts of Henderson’s dissertation were plagiarized, which Henderson denied.
Bionaz’ allegations had triggered a review by a 14-member Graduate School committee, Burton said at the time, adding the committee had already made a recommendation to Karen Colley, dean of UIC’s graduate college, who was expected to decide whether any action was warranted. A month later, Burton declined any further discussion of the review or its outcome, citing Henderson’s privacy.
The lawsuit alleges UIC violated Henderson’s right to due process by failing to notify her of the plagiarism accusation before undertaking the review that she learned of through media, then attempted to cover up its violation of FERPA by ignoring her repeated communications on the issue.
The lawsuit also alleges UIC for months refused to address findings that iThenticate, the software program UIC officials told media the school used to detect potential plagiarism in Henderson’s case, has shown at least five other UIC nursing dissertations with higher plagiarism index scores than hers, and at least 30 other UIC dissertations with high or problematic plagiarism scores.