Editor’s note: NAS president Peter Wood sent this letter to Dr. David Wright, president of Indiana Wesleyan University, on July 21, 2015. Dr. Wright has so far made no answer, and NAS is posting the letter publicly to hold the University accountable to take action. We continue to call on Indiana Wesleyan University to acknowledge and investigate the allegations described here.
Dr. David Wright
Indiana Wesleyan University
4201 S Washington Street
Marion, Indiana 46953
Dear President Wright,
I am writing in reference to the case of Dexter Suggs, the former interim superintendent of the Little Rock Public Schools who stepped down in the face of allegations that he had plagiarized his doctoral dissertation. Dr. Suggs received his doctoral degree in education in Organizational Leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University in part on the basis of his 2009 dissertation. Among the witnesses against Dr. Suggs is Dr. Georgann Scott. Parts of her 2005 dissertation appear verbatim and without attribution in Dr. Suggs’ 2009 dissertation.
I understand that Indiana Wesleyan University has been called on to investigate the allegations and to take appropriate action. The Little Rock School District is awaiting the results of that investigation as are a substantial number of parents and teachers.
I am writing to you as president of the National Association of Scholars, an independent organization of faculty members, academic administrators, and others committed to upholding the standards of integrity of in American higher education. We are a non-governmental body and exercise no authority over accreditation or other quasi-legal matters. Our sole interest is holding colleges and universities to appropriately high standards in education, formation of character, and service to society.
As a former provost (of a Christian college) and as someone who worked in high levels of university administration for more than 25 years, I understand the awkwardness of this situation. Dr. Suggs’ doctoral degree precedes your presidency and surely there are faculty members at Indiana Wesleyan who are affronted that their own negligence in this matter has been thrust into public view.
There are few good choices in these circumstances, but there are many bad ones. Attempting to brush the matter aside would be among the poorest choices. Indiana Wesleyan University would be engaged in poor Christian witness as well as very poor academic practice if it decided to do nothing in light of these allegations. At a minimum, a public statement acknowledging the failure of the doctoral examination committee to take notice of the plagiarism is needed. Dr. Suggs himself should be allowed to speak on his own behalf, but given the now irrefutable evidence against him, one would hope he would speak with contrition rather than blame-shifting.
I am writing this letter for now as a private communication and as an appeal to your better judgment. But having been at this work for a number of years, I know that sometimes letters like this go unanswered unless they are accompanied by the assurance that in due course I will make this letter and your answer, if any, public. Public accountability is, after all, the currency of higher education. In granting a doctoral degree to Dr. Suggs, Indiana Wesleyan University gave this man public credibility as an educated expert in his field. On that basis he was appointed to positions of public trust, for which the university bears a degree of moral responsibility. You will, I am confident, do the right thing.