Monday, August 31, 2015

Dexter Suggs no longer has doctorate; should end severance

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2015 at 2:21 PM


UPDATE: Don Sprowl, chief academic officer at Indiana Wesleyan University, says Dexter Suggs, the former Little Rock school superintendent, no longer holds a doctorate in education from the university. This is most likely a result of allegations that he plagiarized his doctoral dissertation, though the university doesn't confirm that.

As recently as July 29, Sprowl had said Suggs held a master of education, a doctorate of education and an education specialist degree. Today, he said Suggs held only the master's and the specialist certificate. He did not elaborate about the change in circumstance. He had said previously that federal rules to protect confidentiality of students prohibited him from saying anything beyond what degrees Suggs held at the university. Sprowl's statement today:

I’m afraid FERPA still limits my ability to speak about the academic record of individual students and the academic record includes disciplinary actions.

Public information includes degrees conferred. Currently, Dexter Suggs holds two degrees from Indianan Wesleyan University, the Master of Education (1997) and the Education Specialist (2010). Mr. Suggs was awarded the Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership in 2009 but no longer holds that degree. The change of status occurred earlier this month.

Others have asked about university process and procedure. In cases of alleged academic misconduct discovered after the conferral of a degree, a faculty panel is seated to investigate the matter. The investigation includes full due process with the graduate invited to share their understanding of the matter. The faculty review panel makes recommendation to the President. If the recommendation includes sanction of any sort the graduate is given opportunity to appeal to the President if there is any perception of lack of due process or if additional information is available and valuable. The President addresses the appeal and makes final decision regarding any action to be taken.

Sprowl said the school wasn't revealing the date of the change in status. The state said it learned of it today.

Since Suggs no longer holds that degree, he's entitled to no more payments under a $250,000 severance package given when he left the school district in April.

The severance deal is here. It provided $46,208 immediately and promised $50,050 payments every two months, with one payment July 1 and another that would have been due tomorrow. I'm attempting to find out if that payment has been made and what steps, if any, the district plans on remaining payments. The agreement provided that payments would terminate if the doctorate was "revoked, suspended or otherwise nulilfied."

The agreement gives Suggs no recourse on changes under terms outlined.


The Little Rock School District (LRSD) received confirmation today that Dexter Suggs no longer holds a doctoral degree from Indiana Wesleyan University. Pursuant to the terms of the Settlement Agreement and Release, LRSD is not obligated to make any further payments to Mr. Suggs.

The payment which was due on July 1, 2015 was made in a timely manner. 

A statement from the State Education Department said Commissioner Johnny Key, in working out Suggs' departure had prepared for the contingency by outlining consequences should the degree be revoked. "With that issue now closed, the commissioner is eager to assist LRSD in its ongoing process of improvement."

Following is what was written earlier today:

The National Association of Scholars, which describes itself as an independent group of higher education teachers and administrators, has written to Indiana Wesleyan University pressing it for answers on its review of Dexter Suggs, the former Little Rock school superintendent.

Suggs was constructively fired in April as superintendent by state Education Commissioner Johnny Key after the state took over the school district in January on account of low test scores at six of its 40 schools. His departure followed disclosures by the Blue Hog Report of apparent plagiarism on the paper Suggs submitted to receive his doctorate from Indiana Wesleyan. He got a $250,000 severance deal, subject to revocation were he to lose his doctoral degree. His current whereabouts aren't readily known.

To date, Indiana Wesleyan has said only that it is "aware" of the allegations. When I checked on the review of Suggs' work in late July, the school said privacy rules prohibited it from even confirming there was an investigation. But, at that time, the school said there'd been no change in the status of Suggs, who holds two degrees and a specialist certificate from the school.

Last week, the Association of Scholars posted on its website that its leader, Peter Wood, had written to IWU President David Wright on July 21, because Wright had not responded. It said in part: a former provost (of a Christian college) and as someone who worked in high levels of university administration for more than 25 years, I understand the awkwardness of this situation. Dr. Suggs’ doctoral degree precedes your presidency and surely there are faculty members at Indiana Wesleyan who are affronted that their own negligence in this matter has been thrust into public view.

There are few good choices in these circumstances, but there are many bad ones. Attempting to brush the matter aside would be among the poorest choices. Indiana Wesleyan University would be engaged in poor Christian witness as well as very poor academic practice if it decided to do nothing in light of these allegations. At a minimum, a public statement acknowledging the failure of the doctoral examination committee to take notice of the plagiarism is needed. Dr. Suggs himself should be allowed to speak on his own behalf, but given the now irrefutable evidence against him, one would hope he would speak with contrition rather than blame-shifting.

...  In granting a doctoral degree to Dr. Suggs, Indiana Wesleyan University gave this man public credibility as an educated expert in his field. On that basis he was appointed to positions of public trust, for which the university bears a degree of moral responsibility. You will, I am confident, do the right thing.

The NAS, web sources say, is generally viewed as a conservative organization, though it rejects the label. It opposes speech codes on campus, for example, as well as affirmative action. It has received funding from conservative foundations.

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