Graduate students uneasy about Felner investigation

By on September 29, 2008

By Kara Augustine

This week, a letter will be released to graduate students at the University of Louisville concerning the investigation into  former College of Education and Human Development Dean Robert Felner.
Felner is currently being investigated for allegedly misappropriating $694,000 in federal grant money. The university has also formed a committee to investigate the awarding of a Ph.D. to former U of L graduate student John Deasy, who reportedly only studied for nine credit hours at U of L.
William Pierce, Vice Provost for Graduate Affairs and chair of the investigating committee, said he recognizes how serious these allegations must be in the minds of current graduate students. 
“We know how serious this issue is,” said William Pierce, Vice Provost for Graduate Affairs and Interim Dean of the Graduate School. “The students are concerned. I think that is entirely appropriate.”
Pierce, who received his PhD. from U of L, explained the main concern is the thought of a degree being devalued because of the investigations. Also, he noted that students fear public perception, but this can be answered with the facts, once they are entirely known.
“We still need to maintain our public confidence in our academic integrity,” Pierce said.
When Graduate Student Council President Amber Carrier first heard the news about Felner, she was shocked it could have happened here.
“The integrity for the Graduate School of U of L is very high,” said Carrier.  “I know this because I am going through it and know others who have.”
Carrier said if the Deasy degree was given erroneously, there might be direct effects seen in the job market. But, it still will not take away the quality of graduate students’ degrees.
“I have worked very hard and will continue to work hard,” Carrier said. “It’s a difficult degree and a difficult program. Even if an eyebrow or two are raised, I will be able to defend my experiences through the things I have done. I don’t think there will be any question as to my strengths as a potential applicant.”
The faculty and leadership of the Graduate School are focused on keeping students informed and up-to-date on information surrounding the investigations.
“There’s nothing more important to a university than its credibility. We have a public trust and more importantly, the student’s trust,” Pierce said. “When we know the facts and if we find weaknesses in our system, then we will correct them and welcome graduate students’ input.”
Pierce emphasized his eagerness to discuss these issues  with students.
“Certainly the investigations are quite serious. But, I would advise grad students to look at themselves and then to their right and left and they will know how hard they are working,” Pierce said. “The graduate school leadership also believes in them and how hard they are working on their scholarly activities.”
Carrier explained that despite the potential conflicts, she has confidence in the Graduate School’s actions.
“Graduate students are concerned but we have full faith in Dr. Pierce and the university to take care of the situation and we are confident that they will work it out with our best interests in mind,” Carrier said.
The outcomes of the investigations are not yet known, but Pierce and the graduate students continue to be focused on the hard work and dedication each student and faculty member of the Graduate School.
Pierce said, “Although this is a matter of extreme gravity, I personally am confident we will recover from this and our current students and all of our alumni will continue to have pride in their degrees from the University of Louisville.”

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