By Barbara Kay
Provost Earnest Lamb failed to attribute his September notes (pictured left) to the Society of College and University Planning (right). The highlighted green section (left) is verbatim for the green box (right)
Following his provost notes from September, faculty members discovered that Provost Earnest Lamb failed to attribute sections of his email to The Society of College and University Planning, which, sources say, has caused outrage among the faculty.
In his September notes, which are sent monthly to the Purchase community, Lamb failed to attribute the beginning of his fourth paragraph, and the middle of his fifth paragraph, which were directly taken from The Society of College and University planning.
“An agile mindset exercised by leadership and distilled down into organizational culture is the prerequisite for any higher education institution planning to transform itself in an age of constant disruption,” stated The Society of College and University Planning, which Lamb used and didn’t attribute.
Lamb apologized for the “unintentional” plagiarism, but it has unsettled some faculty who feel that his apology was unsatisfactory and that he went without consequences, according to a faculty member.
“The content in question was taken from talking points for a PowerPoint presentation on strategic planning that I had presented a few years ago,” Lamb said at the Faculty at Large meeting, which occurred Oct. 25. “Unfortunately, some of that content was later used in my broadcast email in September without proper attribution. I want to make it clear that this was an unintentional mistake and not a deliberate attempt to pass off someone else's words as my own. However, I do accept full responsibility for not verifying the sources in an informal email as I normally would for a scholarly publication.
“I have since accounted for this oversight, apologized, and reassured my commitment to maintaining high academic standards at Purchase College in a previous BEM [broadcast email]. I want to reiterate my commitment now as well,” he continued.
Two separate faculty members discovered two sections that were plagiarized, and Dr. Rudolph Gaudio, the Director of the School of Natural and Social Sciences, reported it to Andrew Salomon, a journalism professor and the newly elected Faculty Presiding Officer.
Lamb became the Provost
in June 2022 (Photo via the
Purchase College website)
With advice from the Faculty Executive Committee, the directors of each of the schools (i.e. Natural Sciences, Humanities, etc), Gaudio and Salomon brought the issue to Lamb, who Gaudio said reacted “calmly” and “professionally.”
This is Salomon’s first year in the position of Faculty Presiding Officer, and has been “baptized by fire” by this experience, said Gaudio.
“President Peña, Provost Lamb, and the Faculty at Large are discussing the matter. We are by necessity engaging in rigorous debate,” wrote Salomon in an email in response to questions from this reporter. “As faculty presiding officer, I have met with Provost Lamb and President Peña and have had collegial and respectful conversations. The faculty deliberated yesterday in private, in Executive Session, in our regularly scheduled meeting. That conversation, too, was collegial and respectful and represented a diverse range of opinion.”
Salomon continued in the email, “I have listened to and will continue to listen to all stakeholders on campus, and value highly all opinions, even and especially when they diverge from my own. This is what is required of everyone at Purchase College: to listen actively and with great empathy to all viewpoints, and to act judiciously and fairly. I am hopeful that, collectively, we will find a way forward. I would like to note that Provost Lamb addressed Faculty at Large on Wednesday to explain his error, to correct the record, and to apologize. I appreciate his appearance and his apology.”
Plagiarism, whether intentional or unintentional, is considered a serious breach of ethics at Purchase College. According to the Academic Integrity Standards and Sanctions page on the college’s website, plagiarism is defined as, “the appropriation or imitation of the language, ideas, and/or thoughts of another person and the representation of them as one’s own original work.”
Purchase Student Government Association (PSGA) President Me’ilani Nelson was “shocked” to learn of Lamb’s failed attribution, and was just as troubled by his October notes, which included his apology as the second item of the email.
In his October notes, Lamb
issued an apology which
members felt was “weak”
“I don’t think he took as much care of his apology as he could've," Nelson said. “A part of me wants to see him go through the process students do [when they are caught plagiarizing], but I also understand that he must send hundreds of emails a day.”
The flow chart explaining the process for students when they violate the Academic Integrity Standards (Photo via the Purchase College website)
The repercussions for plagiarism for students can range from receiving no credit for the assignment or exam, to failing the entire course. Three strikes of plagiarism can, in the worst case, lead to suspension or expulsion.
The process for denying accusations of plagiarism consists of facing a hearing from the Academic Integrity Committee, which is made up of staff and faculty members. Should the student still object to that decision, they may appeal to the provost.
Given these revelations, Jennifer Shingelo, the Chair of the Academic Integrity Committee, fears this may now be an “awkward interaction” going forward.
“I’m disappointed,” Shingelo said. “[Administrators] should be upholding the standards. When a student [plagiarizes], it’s like a kid touching a hot stove. It’s a lesson for everyone.”
“His apology was weak, and I’m a big fan of admitting when I’m wrong,” she continued.
Purchase President Dr. Milagros Peña characterized this call for accountability as a “public humiliation” during the Faculty at Large meeting.
“[Lamb’s] apology was given in humility and in good faith,” Peña said. “While I agree that having discussions affirming high academic standards is important, this meeting has incorporated a public humiliation that is inconsistent with the process we afford to our faculty, staff and students.”
Peña declined to comment further on the matter.
“I found [Peña’s comment] distressing,” Gaudio said. “But, it was a matter of interpretation. It wasn’t anyone’s intention to humiliate Provost Lamb. Asking for accountability is our job.”
The faculty are still in discussion of whether or not any further steps should be taken regarding Provost Lamb’s failure of attribution.