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Complaint questions professor’s ethics

As a graduate assistant in the School of Music, Andrew Kurcan felt the professor he was working for was acting unethically.

On May 2, Kurcan wrote a letter outlining allegations of questionable behavior by Robert Romanski, an adjunct professor in the School of Music. Kurcan worked with Romanski in the class Music in the United States during the 2005-06 school year.

What caused Kurcan to finally speak out were events that transpired during the spring 2006 semester. Romanski gave students who were unable to attend make-up sessions for the midterm – or had claimed their test was lost – a score of 95 on the midterm, Kurcan said in his letter. Since Kurcan decided to switch his major, he felt he would be able to speak out without ramifications.

“I saw it as a very dangerous thing to let go,” Kurcan said. “I just switched my major from music to multimedia journalism. I felt that if someone were to speak, that it might as well be me. Why go quiet and have to put someone else through that?”

Kurcan and his fellow graduate assistants also found 30 plagiarized papers from students in the class. Initially, Kurcan said Romanski announced to the class that he was going to administer grades of “FF” to those who plagiarized, meaning they cannot apply the grade forgiveness policy if they retake the course. However, Romanski reduced the punishment so that eventually no action was taken against the plagiarists.

“After careful consultation with other faculty members within the School of Music … I elected to hold back in voicing my disagreements,” Kurcan wrote in the letter. “After all, it was professor Romanski’s class and therefore his decision.”

Romanski returned phone messages to the Oracle but at press time was unable to be reached for comment.

Kurcan sent his letter to administrators in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, such as Ron Jones, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, and Wade Weast, director of the School of Music.

Jones sent a response to Kurcan thanking him for bringing the matter to his attention. An investigation still needs to be done to determine the truth and depth of these allegations, Jones said.

“I have no idea if this is true, partially true, somewhat true or false,” he said.

Yet when it comes to grades and academic disputes, Jones said it is ultimately up to faculty members to decide how to resolve them.

“If a faculty member wants to resolve a problem by giving grades that are totally undeserved, it’s up to them,” he said.

In terms of reporting allegations involving faculty members, there is a “chain of command,” according to Dwayne Smith, vice provost of Faculty and Program Development.

“There is a due process when it comes to these types of things,” he said.

Since an investigation within the College of Visual and Performing Arts still needs to take place, Kurcan’s complaint has not come through Smith’s office yet.

“This is a pretty unusual situation,” Smith said upon hearing of Kurcan’s complaint.

According to Smith, complaints such as Kurcan’s are supposed to first go to the professor in question, then to the chair of the department, then the dean. If the matter cannot be resolved within the respective college, the matter will then come to Smith’s office.

“We do not consider any complaints unless they have gone through the proper channels,” Smith said.

If a case made it to Smith’s office, he said it would “determine whether any sanctions (against the faculty member) were appropriate. If the case is quite serious, a faculty panel could be convened and consider the appropriate action.”

Kurcan said that his allegations are “word against word,” and his aim is not to cause Romanski to lose his job, “just to make change.”

“Even if the only thing that changes is his behaviors in his class, then I will be completely vindicated,” Kurcan said. “By any letter of the law, to idly sit by and watch something happen is to become an accomplice. (College) is the place where change and innovation takes place, (where) you make a difference. It’s supposed to be the point where things are done right and things are taught right.”

From graduate assistant Andrew Kurcan’s letter concerning the practices of adjunct music professor Robert Romanski:

Kurcan found actions taken by Romanski to be a “blatant disregard for the sanctity of academic integrity and justice.”

Assistants for Romanski found “30 plagiarized papers submitted by students from professor Romanski’s class,” but Romanski took “no substantial action against the guilty parties.”

He claimed Romanski gave students who were unable to attend make-up sessions for the midterm – or had claimed their test was lost – a score of 95 on the midterm.