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Incoming pharmacy faculty dean withdraws from position over summer

Wasan and co-authors failed to cite passages taken from an earlier book review

Incoming pharmacy faculty dean withdraws from position over summer

This past year saw both exciting announcements and alarming uncertainty coming from the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. U of T unveiled their pick for the next pharmacy faculty dean in July 2018. Less than a year later, in June 2019, its new hire, Professor Kishor Wasan, had withdrawn from his appointment.

A book review in The Lancet, co-written by Wasan, who was a Professor and Dean of the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan, was found to contain “substantial passages” from another review of the same book.

The article, which was titled “A check-up on Canada’s health system,” has since been retracted due to its similarity to a review written by André Picard, a reporter and columnist for The Globe and Mail. Both Picard and Wasan wrote reviews on Danielle Martin’s book Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians.

Wasan was slated to become U of T’s newest Dean and Professor of the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy for a five-year term, meant to serve in his role from July 1, 2019 until June 30, 2024. However, in a statement made to The Varsity, university spokesperson Elizabeth Church confirmed that Wasan had voluntarily withdrawn from his upcoming position following The Lancet’s retraction of his book review.

The retraction notice published by The Lancet in May does not explicitly allege that any plagiarism took place. This may be due in part to Wasan’s explanation that he and his co-authors credited Picard in earlier drafts of their review, but that the citation was removed without appropriate modifications to the text.

He contends that the citation was dropped in order to accommodate more of his and his co-authors’ perspectives. However, due to an accidental oversight, no additions were made to replace Picard’s ideas.

Speaking to Medscape Medical News, Wasan admits that he is “partly responsible,” but maintains that he and his co-authors “did not intend to deceive.”

Wasan was also previously the Chair and Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of British Columbia, where he co-founded the Neglected Global Diseases Initiative, a body meant to develop interventions for infectious diseases of poverty.

Wasan will not be returning to his original position as Professor and Dean of the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan. His term officially ended there in June 2019.

Professor Lisa Dolovich, who teaches at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, will serve as Interim Dean for a one-year term.

Wasan did not respond to The Varsity’s requests for comment.

Thomas Rosica steps down from St. Michael’s College post amid extensive plagiarism allegations

Resignation of prominent priest from board of directors comes as evidence surfaces of plagiarism since 2008

Thomas Rosica steps down from St. Michael’s College post amid extensive plagiarism allegations

A prominent priest in Toronto’s Catholic community has stepped down from the University of St. Michael’s College’s (USMC) board of directors after extensive plagiarism allegations surfaced against him on February 15.

Thomas Rosica, CEO of Catholic media channel Salt + Light Television and a well-known spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Church, resigned from his board position after it was revealed that several columns and essays published under his name in news outlets such as the Toronto Sun, National Post, Windsor Star, and The Globe and Mail included copy plagiarized from other sources.

Many of the plagiarized sources can be traced back to other Catholic and secular journalists writing for publications such as The New York Times and America Magazine. The earliest of the articles dates back to 2008, when Rosica published a column for the Toronto Sun about Catholic martyrdom, which includes two unattributed paragraphs from the work of Associated Press reporter Brian Murphy. 

“I sincerely regret the situation that has arisen and the allegations of plagiarism. I can assure you these errors were never done intentionally,” said Rosica in a statement to The Varsity.

“Nevertheless such actions are wrong. I have recognized the errors and publicly acknowledged them. I am truly sorry for what has transpired. It is best that I step down from the governing board so that my mistakes do not detract from the mission of the University.”

The governing body at USMC, run by the Catholic community of priests known as the Congregation of St. Basil (CSB), have taken the situation seriously. USMC has not been involved beyond the acceptance of Rosica’s resignation.

Collegium chair Don McLeod tweeted on February 25, “Fr. [Father] Thomas Rosica, CSB made significant contributions while serving the St. Michael’s community as a member of its Collegium. Over the weekend, I received and have respectfully accepted his resignation from the Collegium.”

Martyn Jones, a spokesperson for USMC, issued a statement to Catholic and self-described “#1 pro-life news website” LifeSiteNews on February 19 in response to the greater university’s comment on the matter.

“We are troubled to hear of the allegations against Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB. The University of St. Michael’s College holds its students and its academic community to the highest standards of accountability and academic integrity, and as a federated university in the University of Toronto, we follow the U of T’s Office of Student Academic Integrity and its Code of Behavior on Academic Matters.”

Rosica has also played a significant role in other Canadian universities, having served as President and Vice-Chancellor of Assumption University in Windsor. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from St. Mark’s College at the University of British Columbia in May and an honorary degree from Regis College at U of T in November. Rosica also served as a media adviser for the Vatican in 2014 and played a significant role as a spokesperson during the St. Michael’s College School hazing incidents.

David Mulroney, former President of USMC from 2015–2018, tweeted on February 18, “Failure to investigate suggests that major Catholic universities in Canada value ideological compatibility over academic rigor.”

While it is unclear whether Rosica’s awards and degrees will be revoked, the Jesuits of Canada has withdrawn its bestowal of the Magis Award, given to an outstanding member of the Catholic community.

“Plagiarism is a grave offense against intellectual honesty and the community of scholarship. At the same time, many of us know Fr. Tom personally, and celebrate his genuine service to the Church in Canada and around the world,” reads a statement from the Jesuits of Canada.

“It is with great sorrow then that we have written to Father Rosica and withdrawn our invitation to him to receive the Magis Award on April 24, in the context of the Annual Provincial’s Dinner.”

Rosica continues to serve as CEO of Salt + Light Television. The Vatican has not released a statement on the matter.

University upholds decision to officially strip Chris Spence of PhD

67 alleged counts of plagiarism found in former TDSB Director of Education’s dissertation

University upholds decision to officially strip Chris Spence of PhD

A U of T appeals tribunal upheld the June 2017 decision to strip former Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Director of Education Chris Spence of his PhD due to 67 alleged counts of plagiarism found in his dissertation.

In 2013, it was revealed that Spence’s plagiarism spanned articles, books, blogs, and his dissertation. Since then, he has resigned from the TDSB, and in 2016, the Ontario College of Teachers revoked his teaching licence. The university attempted to hold a hearing since then, but it was only able to do so last year.

The original June hearing proceeded despite Spence’s request for adjournment, citing mental health issues. Neither Spence nor his lawyer, Darryl Singer, were present for the hearing. Singer claimed that no penalty should have been given, due to their absences. However, Spence had been previously warned that the hearing would take place whether or not he had counsel, and that it could proceed even if he was not present.

As reported chronologically by the Appeals Board report, the past five years were marked by a constant back and forth between the tribunal and Spence, with Spence repeatedly citing health concerns against the university’s continued attempts to hold the hearing.

With his frequent absences, Spence elongated his hearings with both U of T and the Ontario College of Teachers. However, Spence was unsuccessful in proving his medical claims. A doctor who reviewed Spence’s report claiming health concerns decided that there was not enough evidence to prove that he would be physically or psychologically incapable of participating in the hearings.

Ultimately, in the view of the tribunal, Spence never fully substantiated his claims that he was medically incapable of participating. At the original hearing, Spence’s counsel claimed he was unable to participate due to an anxiety attack the day before. This claim was not medically affirmed.

In his request for appeal, Spence argued that, were he able to participate in the hearing, it would have influenced the outcome. He also argued that the revocation of his degree after a successful 20-year career had an “inordinately serious and inappropriate impact,” which the tribunal found to be reason for a greater penalty rather than a lesser one.

The appeals tribunal expressed that there was nothing irregular about the decision, and that Spence’s claims that he was not given sufficient notice were unsubstantiated.

Singer told the Toronto Star that he intends to bring the case to the Ontario Divisional Court, and that he has until March 2 to file notice if he chooses to do so. Spence also plans to appeal the retraction of his teaching licence.

Where Wente went wrong

The Globe and Mail's noncommittal response to plagiarism undermines importance of integrity in writing

Where Wente went wrong

One of the first things that students are told during Orientation Week is ‘don’t plagiarize’ — passing someone else’s ideas off as your own is unethical and degrading to academic scholarship. Unfortunately, it seems this same message struggles to come through in parts of the professional world.

Margaret Wente has had her own column for The Globe and Mail since 1992. Over the past four years, multiple instances of plagiarism have been exposed within her work. Wente has repeatedly failed to properly cite her sources, which is the kind of mistake that would likely cost rookies their job and potentially their career. Yet, her work continues to be published in The Globe each week.

Journalism is built on an honour system that revolves around integrity, trust, and the truth. Wente’s continued employment is troubling in this regard, and The Globe’s response to the most recent allegations of her plagiarism is disappointing.

The Globe is only hurting itself by keeping Wente around. By failing to adequately respond to Wente’s plagiarism, The Globe is setting their ethical bar low and diminishing their brand credibility in the process.

Editor-in-chief David Walmsley chalked the veteran writer’s infractions up to a self-editing problem reminiscent of the rudimentary craftsmanship of first-year university paper-writers. In an article written by The Globe’s public editor on the incident Walmsley stated, “It shouldn’t have happened and the Opinion team will be working with Peggy to ensure this cannot happen again.”

Walmsley’s response seems like a clever public relations tactic that attempts to neutralize an otherwise serious situation. This sends a dangerous message to the public, journalists, and students alike, that Wente’s plagiarism is somehow acceptable; in reality, the opposite is true. Within the university context, the consequences of attributing someone else’s ideas as your own can be dire: from being forced to withdraw from a course, to expulsion, and even to possible legal repercussions. Journalists should be held to the same standard.  

Lisa Taylor, assistant professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism, specializes in ethics and law. When considering the issue of plagiarism, Taylor is firm in her stance: “There’s no denying that it does diminish the credibility of the writer. Truth telling is the very essence of journalism. You will put your name on it and you will stand by your work. That’s all you have to offer your readers.”

Indeed, The Globe is only hurting itself by keeping Wente around. By failing to adequately respond to Wente’s plagiarism, The Globe is setting their ethical bar low and diminishing their brand credibility in the process.

It is unfathomable that such a large and influential publication would tarnish its reputation for one columnist, veteran or not. Regardless of the underlying motivations for keeping Wente on the payroll, in this respect, it’s not doing anyone any favours.

For the sake of ethical writing, plagiarism must be answered with severity. In the meantime, The Globe may want to take note of the anti-plagiarism strategies that are implemented at universities. Perhaps a hearing before the equivalent of a University Tribunal would be the most effective course of action, so that Wente can begin to regain the trust of her readership.

Lisa Power is a fourth-year student at New College studying English literature. She is The Varsity’s Arts & Culture Editor.