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Friday, February 25, 2000
Trouble With e-Mail
Issues raised regarding plagiarism and
President Richard E. Hoover's sudden retirement.

By A Katherine Gotto, and Amy Williams

    HASTINGS, Nebraska -- Dr. Richard E. Hoover, president of the college since 1995, announced today that he will retire March 1.
     A controversy soon followed Dr. Hoover's talk last week to Hastings College faculty and students in a campus forum sponsored by the local Presbyterian clergy in which Hoover cited things he said were important to life -- work, family, health, friends, and spirituality. Checking out the points after the meeting, a Hasting's student contacted the college's student newspaper, The Collegian, to investigate possible plagiarism.
      According to the Collegian their investigation turned up some of the same words in a speech by Bryan Dyson, a former executive of the Coca-Cola Company. However, an Internet Web search has identified more than a half-dozen Web sites containing such words. There has been no objection to Hoover's supposed use of the words by Coca Cola or anyone else. Just some inquiring student minds at Hastings College.
      Hoover confessed to reading an e-mail message that containd no attribution. He said he later incorporating some of it into a framework for his talk, based on his own personal observations and experiences. "The e-mail had no attribution whatsoever," he said. "I'm sure it was sent to hundreds of people. I figured it was in the public domain."
     In hindsight, Hoover said, he realizes that he could have avoided the entire controversy by simply acknowledging that his remarks were taken, in part, from an e-mail message he had received. "It never crossed my mind at the time that that was what I should have done," he said.
     No Wonder. In journalism as well as other language arts pursuits and occupations, the standard is clear. Its is calld the First "Amendment" otherwise known as the "Freedom of Speech, Assembly, and Press." Even what may appear to be an exact copy of someone else's words does not constitute an act of plagiarism so long as those words are either credited to the source or were arrived at independently from reading text material available in the subject of copyright protection unless clearly marked accordingly.
     President Hoover was within his Constitutionally protected civil rights to share his thoughts with the faculty and students at Hasting College Nebraska, as he did.
      Some Hastings students were somewhat hasty, apparently. Last Thursday, a student editorial was published in The Collegian that faulted Hoover for defining plagiarism as knowingly using another writer's material without attribution. Students were not satisfied and answered in another Collegian editorial, "We agree with Hoover's definition and believe that by his own definition, portions of his speech were plagiarized."
     To the lasting credit of cooler Collegian heads, however, the following comments in a Letter to the Editor were published on Feb. 24th, "As a concerned alumni and relatively well-educated person, it bothers me to read your staff's negative response to President Hoover's speech. I do not question your journalistic intent--I'm sure that what he did really upset you. However, I question your coverage of the event at which this incident occurred--and for that matter your coverage of anything. Did you cover the luncheon? If it wasn't news-worthy enough before, why is it now? AND why is it that after several months of not updating your web edition at all, you decided to begin electronically publishing again now when this so-called event took place? Could it be that you all enjoy reporting negative news? And only now, when there is something "nasty" to say about President Hoover that you have the motivation to complete your journalistic task? You may be students, but you are still reporters. ACT LIKE IT! - Jeff Pritner 99 Economics/Religion"
     Anyway, Hoover, under pressure to turn in his "resignation" over the alledged incident, announced his decision to "retire" at a noon meeting with the faculty last week. Students were then notified by e-mail.
     Hoover said he and his wife, Elaine, have been considering retirement for several months.
     "Hastings College is preparing to develop its next five-year strategic plan. It is a natural time for new leadership to be present for planning and implementation.
     "However, even though I promptly and sincerely responded to my accusers in the current controversy, I believe my ability to lead the College has been compromised. In the best interests of the college, I have chosen to retire at this time." Hoover said the current controversy is the recent issue raised regarding plagiarism.
     Cal Johnson, chair of the board of trustees, said he does not feel Hoover's retirement is a "knee jerk" reaction to the controversy.
     "This is an unfortunate incident, both for the college as an institution and the president. I'd rather use this as a positive to go forward. We will continue to make strides towards improvement," Johnson said.
     Dr. Phil Dudley, vice president of the college, will be appointed acting president.
     "This is obviously a very tough time for Dr. Hoover right now," Dudley said. "Though he may be leaving with some controversy, I think he will be remembered, over time, for having a positive impact," Jerri Haussler, associate dean of students, said.
     Hoover has spearheaded programs to improve trojects, and create faculty/student exchanges with international universities.
     "He set the bar high and demanded a lot of those who worked for him, but in return, much has been accomplished in his term here. We are better off than we were when he came. We have risen as a college in national prominence and stature," Haussler said.
     Hoover has been instrumental in increasing technology for students and faculty. The Wilson Center for mathematics and computer science was one of Hoover's projects.
     "Dr. Hoover was responsible for 'wiring the campus' and upgrading the computer system, adding computers all over campus, and making them very accessible to everyone," Haussler said.
     Fundraising for the $15 million Osborne Legacy Project was undertaken with Hoover's leadership. Construction has begun.
     Hoover has been a leader in negotiating student/faculty exchange agreements with several international universities.
     "There were no exchanges when President Hoover came to Hastings college," Dr. Rob Babcock, chair of the International Exchange Coordinating Committee said.
     There are now agreements with the University of Salamanca in Spain, Pyatigorsk Federal Linguistic University, Chichester University, Chichester, England. Several other agreements are still being negotiated.
     During Hoover's first year as president, he led plans for a Strategic Plan and Master Plan outlining goals into the new millennium.
      "Elaine and I wish to thank the faculty, staff, students and the Hastings community for their support during my tenure. We want to express our hopes for their continued pursuit of excellence in education," Hoover said.
     "It is a very unique time for this institution," Dudley said. He expressed confidence in the college's future. "We have a strong institution," Dudley said. "We will survive."
     The Rev. Matthew R. Nieman of the Hastings First Presbyterian Church, which sponsored the forum, called the plagiarism charge "unfortunate" and "damaging." "It's certainly not a bright spot for Hastings College," he said. "But I believe his apology is sincere. I sense in talking with him that he very much regrets what happened."

        [Editor's Note: Hastings College offers 68 majors in 34 areas in the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences, Their Year 2000 Report lists a $58 million endowment. Contributions and endowment earnings account for approximately 20 percent of the College's operating expenses. A. Katherine Gotto is the Editor-In-Chief of the Hastings Collegian in Hastings, Nebraska. A portion of this story appeared in the Hastings Collegian on Feb. 17, 2000. Amy Williams Assoc. Editor of the contributed additonal research and facts to this story.]


2000 by The Hastings Collegian.
1958-2001 Bulldog Newspaper Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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