The University of Pennsylvania will allow Dr. Gregory J. Vincent—the former president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges who resigned amid allegations that he plagiarized portions of his dissertation—the opportunity to make revisions to his literature review chapter.
Once those revisions to his citations are made, according to sources at the Ivy League institution, Vincent’s 2004 doctorate in education will stand.
“Dr. Pam Grossman, the dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, informed me that after a thorough review I will be able to make the necessary corrections to the Literature Review chapter of my dissertation and that my doctoral degree will stand,” said Vincent. “I thank the Penn Graduate School of Education Faculty that reviewed my work and reaffirmed that my dissertation made an original contribution to the field.”
Vincent resigned from his presidential post on April 13th after an anonymous email was sent to several media outlets, accusing him of plagiarizing parts of his dissertation—a claim that he has consistently denied.
In a brief interview with Diverse on Sunday, Vincent said that his decision to step down as president was in the best interest of his family and the college community.
“I think the thing that became clear to me is that we have to always take care of community and never allow people, whether they are insiders or outsiders, to destroy the fabric of the community,” said Vincent, a 1983 alumnus of HWS Colleges. “The other thing I learned from being president is that although you’re in this very responsible, high-profile position, it’s not about you. It’s about the institution and you always have to put the institution first. I saw what it was doing to the community and also I saw the incredible impact it was having on my family.”
Vincent, who served as vice president for diversity and community engagement at The University of Texas at Austin, came to national prominence following his robust defense of the university during the Fisher v. University of Texas case in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of affirmative action in the college admissions process.
In the 1990s, Vincent—who earned a law degree at The Ohio State University and later served on the law faculty at UT—was Ohio’s assistant attorney general.
The plagiarism allegations leveled against Vincent anonymously are not credible, according to several higher education experts, who point out that although it appears that several citations were incorrectly formatted in Vincent’s dissertation, the data analysis was fine. They argue that Vincent was enrolled in a cohort-based Ed.D. program that prepares students to be practitioners at the highest level and not a Ph.D. program that primarily focuses on research. Thus, they said, citation problems are not unusual.
“I do not view this as an academic misconduct issue,” said Dr. William F. Tate, the dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and Vice Provost for Graduate Education at Washington University in St. Louis. “The whole thing is very curious to me.”
Tate, who has been in higher education since 1991 and holds the Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor in Arts & Sciences, said that citation corrections can be “amended in seconds,” evidenced by the University of Pennsylvania’s decision to allow Vincent to make the changes.
Some wonder why Hobart and William Smith Colleges hastily accepted Vincent’s resignation before learning of Penn’s investigation. They wonder if Vincent’s appointment as the first Black male president of the liberal arts college, located in upstate New York, played any role in him being targeted.
“I mean, who runs someone’s dissertation through a software program all these years later unless they are looking for something?” said another prominent university administrator. “Who does something like that? You have to be someone who has an axe to grind to spend this much time. This does not make any sense to me.”
Still, Vincent said that his decision to step down for the presidency that he held for less than a year, was the right thing to do.
“I want to reiterate that I have resigned as president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges because of a serious concern for my family. I also love my alma mater that has given me so much and I wanted to cease the distraction that was negatively impacting the campus,” said Vincent. “I stand by my decision, and I wish Hobert and William Smith and the entire Hobart and William Smith community nothing but the best going forward.”
Jamal Watson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @jamalericwatson.