Panel Denounces Smith

Panel Denounces Smith







By Candia Dames

Nassau, Bahamas

2 September 2005






Three days after former College of The Bahamas President Dr. Rodney Smith lashed out at COB’s Council for asking for his resignation, the Council released portions of a report written by a special panel that had been appointed to look into his plagiarism blunder.


In the report, the panel recommends termination saying it did not see how Dr. Smith would have cause to complain or feel aggrieved.


Four of the five panel members recommended termination while Professor Rex Nettleford, vice chancellor emeritus of the University of the West Indies, wrote a dissenting view.


Dr. Smith has insisted that his use of portions of a speech given by New York University President Dr. John Sexton without providing attribution does not amount to plagiarism because Dr. Sexton later said that his work is the property of the academic community.


However, the panel determined that Dr. Smith’s action indeed amounted to plagiarism.


"While we are aware of some emerging thoughts on plagiarism which appear to be less demanding, a comparison of the Sexton text and the Smith text, using any widely accepted authoritative definition of plagiarism, leads easily to the conclusion that his omissions amounted to plagiarism," said the report, written by retired Justice Joseph Strachan on behalf of a majority.


"Nothing that was said to us by President Smith erases that. On the contrary, a part of what he said discloses ambivalence at best and being disingenuous at worst. We note his studious refusal to use the world ‘plagiarism’, choosing instead, ‘intellectual property rights’.


The panel’s report also said, "There are two occasions on which President Smith omitted to acknowledge his indebtedness to President Sexton, at the Honours Convocation and at the Commencement; and hence, since each omission has the specific gravity, a conclusion that the requirements for cause are met follows irresistibly."


It also notes that the law provides that the Council may remove the president from office on the ground of misconduct, inefficiency or other good cause.


"Of this subsection, it is enough to say that we consider the omissions to fall within that provision," the panel wrote.


The panel also recommended various options for handling the situation moving forward, saying that should Dr. Smith fail to resign within a specified period to be chosen by the Council, the Council would have no option but to terminate him.


The Council was also advised to take the steps necessary for the "timely discharge of its contractual obligations to him."


Dr. Smith resigned in early August and revealed this week that the Council had asked him to, based on the panel’s recommendations.


On Tuesday, Mr. Wilson confirmed that Dr. Smith had been paid the nearly $300,000 agreed to as a part of his buyout arrangement with the Council.


In a press statement on Thursday, the Council said it took the decision to accept the recommendations of the advisory panel and agreed to implement them through a committee of Council consisting of Chairman Franklyn Wilson, Dr. Earl Cash and Simon Wilson.


The Council noted, "The matter of Dr. Smith’s settlement was faithful to all the recommendations of the panel, accepted as satisfactory to him as signaled by his signing of the settlement and fully acquitted by the College of The Bahamas."


The Council also expressed its "deep displeasure" at those elements of Dr. Smith’s recent statement, which seem to be impugning the integrity of Mr. Wilson, the Council chairman; other members of the Council and the Council in general.


"Equally distasteful are those aspects of the statement that needlessly and unfairly belittle the contributions of his former colleagues," the Council’s statement said.


It was referring to such statements in Dr. Smith’s release such as, "Throughout a highly successful ten months of my tenure, I found myself doing the work of several persons, persons that carried the titles and job descriptions, but had no other work experience other than at the College of The Bahamas."


The Council said that more could be said about the veracity and or completeness of various details addressed by Dr. Smith.


However, the Council said it chose to be reticent out of compassion for the immediate past president of the college (Dr. Leon Higgs).


The Council also said that it had no desire to engage in an "unseemly exchange of accusations" with Dr. Smith.


It chose instead to focus on the recommendations contained in the panel’s report, which only last week Mr. Wilson had maintained he was not going to make public.


In addition to Justice Strachan and Professor Nettleford, panel members included Anglican Archbishop Drexel Gomez; Bahamas Ambassador to the United Nations Dr. Paulette Bethel; and President-elect of John Carroll University of Cleveland, Ohio and former Vice Provost of the University of San Francisco, Father Robert Niehoff.


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