Chicago State interim Provost Angela Henderson, who took over in July as the campus' senior academic official, received her Ph.D. in nursing from UIC in August. UIC officials began examining her dissertation last month after a Chicago State professor raised concerns that parts of it were copied from other sources, without proper attribution or with inadequate citation.
UIC Graduate College Dean Karen Colley is expected to decide this week whether any action is warranted, UIC spokesman Bill Burton said. The university removed Henderson's dissertation from its online database pending the review.
"When we receive a complaint or accusation regarding academic integrity, such as plagiarism, the complaint is taken very seriously," Colley said in a statement. Possible sanctions could include degree revocation, the statement said.
The charges against Henderson are noteworthy because as provost, she is responsible for overseeing the academic side of the university. That includes operations and policies related to academic standards, graduate education and personnel matters such as disciplinary action — the very issues that she may now have to contend with at UIC.
Her five-member dissertation committee, which had to approve her thesis in order for her to graduate, included Chicago State President Wayne Watson, whom Henderson calls an "educational leader and change agent" in her dissertation's acknowledgments. Not only is he Henderson's boss, but they previously worked together at City Colleges of Chicago, where Watson was president and Henderson was provost. Henderson's husband, Victor Henderson, is Watson's personal attorney.
The allegations come at an acrimonious time at Chicago State, as a group of faculty members has tried to discredit the highest-ranking administrators, including Henderson, and Watson has made it a goal to restore credibility to the public South Side institution after years of problems.
The Tribune ran Henderson's 129-page dissertation through iThenticate, plagiarism detection software used by universities to check the originality of students' work, and asked three independent experts who study academic integrity to examine the dissertation and the allegations.
The experts said Henderson had errors in attribution that violate the UIC College of Nursing's policy on academic integrity included in the student handbook.
The policy states that "students need to be very clear about what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it." It states that "using someone else's exact words must be indicated by enclosing those words in quotation marks ... or offsetting them in indented, single-spaced paragraphs" and including the exact reference and page number.
"It is intellectual theft to use someone else's words or work product without giving them credit for the work through adequate attribution," according to the policy, and violations are subject to disciplinary action.
In her dissertation, Henderson at times uses verbatim or near-verbatim language from other sources without using quotation marks to tell the reader that it is identical. Her citations include the author and year of publication but not the exact reference or page number as required by UIC's policy.
"These are repeated issues. It is not sloppiness here or there, or plagiarism here or there, it is quite often," said Tricia Bertram Gallant, editor of the book "Creating the Ethical Academy: A Systems Approach to Understanding Misconduct & Empowering Change in Higher Education."
"It is clear that this work is problematic enough that it needs to be looked at and perhaps withdrawn," said Gallant, a national consultant and speaker on issues of ethics and academic integrity.
A Chicago State spokesman said Henderson declined to comment to the Tribune. He said she has not been told by UIC officials that her work is under review.
"There is a process to adjudicate this, and she will let that play out. She doesn't feel it is appropriate to comment at this point," spokesman Tom Wogan said. "Right now we are talking about a series of claims made by some individuals who have shown they will go to great lengths to undermine any member of this administration in any way they can."
Prof levels charge
The plagiarism charge was first brought by Chicago State history professor Robert Bionaz, who said he questioned some passages at first glance and decided to run the thesis through plagiarism detection software, which revealed similarities to other work.
He contacted UIC, and Colley's staff began to review Henderson's dissertation, including using iThenticate to detect possible plagiarism, said Burton, the UIC spokesman.
The UIC review was submitted Friday to the Graduate School's executive committee, 14 faculty members who advise the dean on curricula, programs and personnel. The committee made a confidential recommendation to the dean, who is expected to decide this week whether any action is warranted, Burton said.