Miscommunication and legal wrangling had grinded UT’s student plagiarism lawsuit to a halt until last week, when both sides deposed witnesses.
One year ago, professor Anthony LaRose charged Andrea Knight with plagiarism in his Comparative Criminology course. Knight sued after the academic hearing found her guilty and upheld the “F” for her coursework. After months of motions from both sides, the civil trial’s discovery phase has begun.
In October, Knight’s attorney, Joseph Bryant, said his client was completely innocent; however, Bryant now says, “I think she did a real poor job citing. She should have used footnotes.”
He said a letter grade should have been taken off but that Knight was not attempting to pass another person’s writing off as her own.
Bryant deposed LaRose and provided The Minaret with a copy. UT attorney John Campbell deposed Knight, but The Minaret could not obtain a copy of the deposition until it reaches the clerk of court’s office.
“I don’t try my cases in the press. I’m uncomfortable sending [the deposition]. I don’t ever want to be accused of trying a case in the press. I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Campbell said.
Student’s deposition stopped
After a UT official handed the UT attorney a copy of Knight’s transcript, Bryant stopped Knight’s deposition and said they would not participate in further discovery without a court order. He intends to file a motion for contempt against Campbell and UT for unauthorized release of her transcripts. He said he has already filed a complaint with the Department of Education.
He said that Monnie Wertz, associate dean of students, handed Campbell a copy of Knight’s academic transcript which prompted questions in the deposition about Knight’s grade point average.
Knight said she never gave UT permission to release her transcripts during a court appearance. Under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, universities are only allowed to release student’s personal information when permitted by the student or subpoenaed by the court, Bryant contends.
Bryant said the university and Campbell violated FERPA on other instances by attaching court paper’s that revealed her identity and even social security number.
“I have never experienced or witnessed such egregious, unethical misconduct and unprofessionalism [sic] as I witnessed by Mr. Campbell…I have never met a more tyrannical, dirty and corrupt institution as the University of Tampa,” Bryant said.
He will file a contempt of court charge over the transcript use.
“There has been no violation of FERPA, to anyone who has any understanding of the law. It seems quite evident that he has not read the law and is not aware there has been no violation,” Campbell said.
Campbell intends to bring Bryant before the Florida Bar.
Bryant also said Dean of Students Bob Ruday, Wertz and Lauer talked to LaRose prior to the hearing and assured him that Knight plagiarized.
“It supports the accusation that it wasn’t a fair hearing,” Bryant said.
Campbell compares the situation to a court case.
“What he is trying to suggest is that the university employees Monnie Wertz and Angela Lauer had already made up their minds,” Campbell said.
“What he doesn’t understand is that their position at the hearing is the equivalent of the representative of the University and a prosecutor in that context. Though not an entirely accurate analogy, a prosecutor must drop a case if they don’t have a firm belief that the student committed plagiarism,” Campbell said.
The seven member committee would be the jury under Campbell’s analogy.
LaRose’s employment history
During the deposition, Bryant questioned LaRose about a 2002 incident in which Roger Williams University accused him of attempting to sell used textbooks that did not belong to him.
While working at RWU as a dean, former UT professor Tom Hickey hired LaRose. Hickey moved to UT, and after LaRose’s RWU contract was not renewed, Hickey and a committee brought LaRose to UT.
LaRose explained the accusation in his deposition.
“I shared a big office with lots of old books, and it was really more of a storage room than an office,” LaRose said.
A book buyer had been going around to faculty offices buying books.
“Their accusation was that because there were some books at the side of my desk and…because of that, they figured I was selling those books.”
Roger Williams responded by offering LaRose the opportunity to leave after fall 2002 or be terminated. He was told that if he appealed, he would still be taken out of the classroom.
“I chose rather, though, to fight the case.” After his administrative appeal was denied, he appealed through the American Association of University Professors for wrongful termination.
Meanwhile he interviewed at UT and was offered a job.
“There wasn’t a big advantage to going on and fighting this with Roger Williams. So, we had made a settlement, a financial settlement, and I took the job at UT,” LaRose said.
Bryant later asked LaRose, “Why didn’t you stay at [Roger Williams]?”
“Because it’s better to live in Tampa than Bristol, Rhode Island,” LaRose said.
“Well, that may be true, too, especially if you are living in a cold place where they call you a thief, right?,” Bryant said.
Bryant later questioned whether LaRose was bitter for being accused of something he said he didn’t do.
“Are you bitter about that, being charged with being a thief? Are you bitter? Did that make you bitter?,” Bryant asked
“No,” LaRose replied.
Bryant compared LaRose’s experience at RWU to the kangaroo court that he describes the UT academic hearing as being. LaRose said that he did not think the RWU process was a kangaroo court, but he still disagreed with its findings.
Professor’s prior academic writings
Bryant produced a book review written by LaRose Bryant asked LaRose why he did not cite after placing “empirical map,” a word used by the author, in quotation marks. LaRose said the term “empirical map” summarizes the author’s book and would not be understood in general terms by other academicians. He also said he used the quotation marks to show that was author’s terminology.
Bryant also asked about a page number citation at the end of another paragraph. LaRose said to make the distinction that he was not just using the author’s terms but using a specific long quote tied to a specific page.
Bryant’s further questioning seemed to hinge on his own belief that a student paper written for an undergraduate class was not “scholarly writing” in the same way a master’s thesis or a professor’s research were. LaRose disagreed.
Student allegedly singled out
Bryant charged that LaRose sought retribution for an argument that started when Knight presented her paper. LaRose disagreed with an assertion she made. Bryant provided a Tampa Tribune article supporting Knight. He asked if LaRose disagreed with the article.
“So, the Tampa Tribune is wrong on that, to your knowledge?,” Bryant asked.
LaRose said, “Yes.”
Bryant presented signed statements from two female students and a male student about the in-class incident.
One female student said that Knight controlled her temper well but “LaRose was attacking her with questions…” She also said the class was still discussing the argument when the period ended.
“I couldn’t believe that Dr. LaRose would attack her like that,” she said.
A second female student said that another day Knight was trying to show LaRose her research about the paper but he did not look at it.
The male student said the incident lasted for close to 15 minutes. LaRose said in his deposition that it lasted between three and five minutes. The male student said during the next class, which Knight was not present for, LaRose told the class that her information was false and “in the end it’s not h
er opinion that matters.”
LaRose said “I wouldn’t even consider it an argument. I was trying to point out that she needed to do a little more work. She didn’t seem to appreciate that, and that’s essentially where it ended.” LaRose said the male student’s statements about the next class were “fairly accurate.” He agreed that he said “in the end it’s not her opinion that matters.”
Bryant also presented as evidence a paper written by a male student. LaRose said that the male student, who received a C, should have footnoted a passage defining what Shari’a means. LaRose said, “It would be conceivable” that he could have charged the male student with plagiarism. LaRose said he did not charge him because he made an attempt to cite but is not good at citing.
LaRose said that Knight, the plaintiff, made no effort to cite.
Bryant then questioned LaRose about whether he argued with the male student or questioned other professors about the student’s paper. LaRose said he did not, prompting Bryant to ask, “Miss Knight was singled out?”
LaRose said that he did not single out Knight.
University policies revised
Bryant said the university changed their “procedures and sanctioning practices” after the incident with Knight began.
He provided The Minaret with a printed online copy of the practices dated June 7, 2006. After reviewing the copy provided by Bryant against an online version dated April 24, 2007, The Minaret determined that only one line was added under article 4b of the Charges and Hearing section: “If a student admits responsibility, they are not eligible for appeal.”
LaRose declined comment but recommended Campbell be contacted. Additionally, University spokesman Grant Donaldson said he would not comment on possible pending litigation.
The Minaret chose to run the names of Andrea Knight and Anthony LaRose since other publications have made their names public.
-(July 5, 2006) Bryant requested academic integrity hearing be changed due to student’s class and work schedule not providing enough time to prepare both a statement to the University and to prepare for the hearing.
-(July 6, 2006) Campbell changed hearing date to allow Knight time to prepare for absence from work. Campbell said University will allow a University community member to sit in on the hearing if it is appropriate to the procedures and sanctioning practices.
-(July 6, 2006) Bryant said Eileen Arnold will attend with Knight.
-(July 19, 2006) Bryant appealed the hearing to Angela Lauer, judicial coordinator,
-(July 19 2006) Bryant sent a letter to state authorities alleging numerous violations including that Arnold was denied access to hearing and that Knight was not allowed to present a defense. Also Bryant said Lauer said two professors found Knight not guilty in the hearing but in the report he received, the vote said all seven members found her guilty.
-(July 20, 2006) Campbell instructed Bryant not to contact any member of UT since it is “neither necessary nor proper under ethical rules.”
-(July 26, 2006) Campbell said the aforementioned hearing was Knight’s only appeal. Campbell said he intends to request attorney’s fees from Knight.
-(July 28, 2006) Bryant said the motion for fees was “meritless[sic] and frivolous.” He said that if Campbell can prove unethical actions then to report him to the Florida Bar.
-(Aug. 1, 2006) Campbell said they will schedule a deposition without Bryant’s consideration since his assistant said he would not cooperate. Campbell said that Bryant’s letter to Lauer was “overzealous and misguided but not unethical.” He cited the Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism as reason why Bryant should avoid personal insults.
-(Aug. 23, 2006) Campbell said he intends to continue discovery and depositions. He said, “my client should recover it’s attorneys’ fees for this vexatious litigation.”
-(Aug. 23, 2006) Bryant said no deposition will occur without a court order.
-(Sept. 1, 2006) Campbell said he will continue with depositions and said Bryant rejected each offer to cooperate.
-(Sept. 21, 2006) Campbell asks for payment of attorney and court fees resulting from Bryant’s not attending the deposition. Campbell offered to withdraw a hearing with a judge if the court fees are paid and Bryant agrees to a deposition by a certain date.
-(Sept. 22, 2006) Bryant said “Bring it on.”
-(Oct. 18, 2006) Campbell said Bryant should not communicate UT faculty or staff because that is “ethically improper.”
-(Oct. 23, 2006) Bryant said Campbell called his behavior unethical twice and said “Before you attempt to take the speck from another’s eye, you should remove the log from your own eye first.” Bryant said he will amend the complaint with a privacy violation by the attorney for releasing Knight’s records in public court filings.
-(Jan. 25, 2007) Bryant requested a change of deposition date.
-(Jan. 31, 2007) Campbell agreed to reschedule but not according to Bryant’s recommended schedule.
-(Feb. 27, 2007) Campbell said, “Your client can no longer ethically delay her deposition. If she believes she has any claim at all, it is for her to testify and stop hiding.”
-(Feb. 28, 2007) Bryant questions that Campbell discusses ethics despite he is “a clear FERPA violator.” and he “makes up the law as he goes.” Bryant requested “correspondence only” be used to communicate.
-(March 1, 2007) Campbell said, “It is unprofessional and a violation of Hillsborough County’s Rules of Professional Conduct to demand that all communication be in writing.” However, Campbell said he will not ignore Bryant’s request about correspondence.
-(March 12, 2007) Campbell said he intends to obtain Knight’s medical records from UT Health Center, Tampa General Hospital and Brandon Hospital.
-(March 16, 2007) Campbell requested Bryant contact him about any disputes over a proposed order. He said Bryant does not “follow even the basic tenants of professional courtesy” and that the court does not appreciate a role in “wording disputes.” He then issued a letter to Judge Stoddard explaining his above statements.
-(March 20, 2007) Bryant said, “Why are you so angry and distrustful?” and then said he had serious health issues including heart surgery, which delayed his actions. Bryant also said, “Note, I always tell the truth and do everything in the light.”
-(March 30, 2007) Campbell said Bryant was “filing a frivolous action supported only by false allegations…by using misrepresentation and falsehoods on several occasions.” He said Bryant is “untrustworthy” and he attached a Motion to Compel. He closed with, “Again, experience has shown you take no action unless compelled to do so and we act accordingly.”
Bryant provided The Minaret with the aforementioned correspondence. Above are excerpts from nearly 60 letters of correspondence sent between the attorneys or sent to other officials.