Student to Sue UT Over Plagiarism Accusation

Editor’s Note: This article is composed from the plaintiff’s legal documents. Because the student’s name was withheld from the documents, The Minaret chose to withhold the professor’s name. The professor declined comment, citing the pending litigation. Grant Donaldson, the university’s spokesman, said he was unaware of the defamation lawsuit and did not comment.

A student is suing the University of Tampa and a UT professor for defamation after the student received an “F” because of a plagiarism accusation. In the spring 2006 semester, a student, whose name is not included in court documents obtained by The Minaret, wrote a research paper on the Posse Comitatus Act, which explains the military’s role in border control.

In court papers filed on behalf of the student by attorney Joseph Bryant, the lawsuit alleges that the professor initially expressed dissatisfaction over the project topic, and when the project was submitted, the professor levied an accusation of plagiarism and recommended the student confess.

After returned a report stating that the student did not plagiarize, the professor brought the paper to the Dean of Students, who ran the paper through the system. The lawsuit alleges the Dean of Students said that if the report came back negative the matter would be dropped, the lawsuit alleges. After the report returned negative, Associate Dean of Students Monnie Wertz concluded that there was sufficient evidence that the student did not quote properly in accordance with some of her sources and that action merited the student receive an “F,” according to the plaintiff’s lawsuit.

The student maintains her innocence against the accusation of plagiarism. The student claims that the university’s academic policies do not adhere to due process guidelines and that the academic hearing for her defense did not agree with rights afforded by the Constitution.

An act of defamation also allegedly occurred because the professor reportedly discussed the situation with other students publicly in class and with other employees at the University of Tampa. This is said to also constitute an act of malice and bad faith.

On July 17, 2006, after a judge denied an injunction to stop the academic integrity hearing, the student was cited as having committed an academic integrity violation of plagiarism. The student referred to the hearing as a “kangaroo court,” where rules are made up as it goes along, witnesses are not able to be questioned and testimony or defense is not an option. Lastly, according to the lawsuit, the student alleges she was denied an appeal.

After the judge denied the injunction to stop the hearing, the student decided to sue the professor and the university for defamation, as well as at-law damages resulting from defamation and potential punitive damages. This includes potential lost wages and the damage incurred to the student’s attempt to both enter law school and be admitted to the Florida Bar. Court documents list the damages at more than $15,000.

Bryant describes the university polices as being “fast, loose disciplinary rules that do not comply with any type of due process.”

“Basically [the university] can make up rules as it goes since it is a private institution and treat [students] however they want

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