Friday, February 25, 2000
Trouble With e-Mail
Issues raised regarding plagiarism
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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."
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 BulldogNews.net contributed additonal research
and facts to this story.]
©2000 by The Hastings Collegian.
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