The case of a plagiarized PhD

By Latricia C Wilson – Contributor

Angela Henderson, interim provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs at Chicago State University, is in the hot seat over alleged plagiarism.

University of Illinois at Chicago Graduate College Dean Karen Colley is expected to make a decision on whether Henderson will be permitted to have her doctoral degree.

Henderson received her PhD in nursing from UIC in August, and now her dissertation has been removed from UIC database amid the allegations that sections of her dissertation are plagiarized, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Henderson’s 129-page dissertation has been intensely criticized by experts on academic integrity so much so that the Tribune even reviewed the dissertation.

While the UIC doctoral program faculty are not facing any repercussions, Henderson’s academic and ethical integrity has come under attack by Robert Bionaz, history professor at CSU.

Bionaz operates the Crony State University Faculty Voice blog in which he has used as a platform to repeatedly attack Henderson and other top officials at CSU while, for some odd reason, he still receives a paycheck there.

According to the Tribune, the plagiarism charge was first brought by Bionaz, after he ran Henderson’s thesis through plagiarism detection software. Bionaz may have been successful at publicly humiliating Henderson and challenging her intellectual competence.

However, Bionaz, the Tribune’s academic integrity experts and Colley may have forgotten to cross examine and review the intellectual competence of UIC faculty members who determined Henderson’s thesis met the doctoral program standards.

The Preliminary Examination Committee — which determines UIC doctoral candidates’ readiness to undertake dissertation research — is not in the same trouble Henderson is in. Neither is Henderson’s PhD advisor, who was the primary reader of her dissertation and UIC graduate faculty.

No media coverage on Henderson’s plagiarism allegations include statements about the five-member dissertation committee appointed by the dean of UIC’s Graduate College who ultimately determines whether or not Henderson met the requirements for her dissertation research.

In Bionaz’s Jan.18 blog entry on Crony State University titled, “‘At long last, have you left no sense of decency?’ Angela Henderson is No Victim,” he stated: “In truth, this wretched scenario has produced victims. The students, current and past, of [CSU] are victims; the school’s staff, faculty and administrators are victims; the citizens and taxpayers of the state of Illinois are victims and persons who respect the standards and values of higher education are victims. Angela Henderson is not a victim. She brought this disgrace upon herself.”

Bionaz is absolutely correct in implying that Henderson has been disgraced. On the other hand, it is absolutely absurd for him to assume that Henderson single-handedly disgraced herself.

The doctoral committee staff who was responsible for reading her 129-page dissertation and critically evaluating her literary work, played the biggest role in disgracing a woman with 19 years of experience in higher education.

According to the Tribune, Colley said, “When we receive a complaint or accusation regarding academic integrity, such as plagiarism, the complaint is taken very seriously.”

Colley fails to “take seriously” the competence of UIC faculty members who are responsible for ensuring that doctoral candidates’ coursework, and especially their dissertations, have been thoroughly reviewed before a ceremony takes place and a degree is awarded.

This “wretched scenario” has indeed produced victims. The victims it has produced are future doctoral graduates of UIC who could potentially have to defend their entire educational background every time they pursue a professional position anywhere. Problems could also arise when these students go on to discuss their educational accomplishments with potential employers.

We must not forget about the number one victim — Henderson. She has been publicly disgraced due to the actions of a CSU professor who allowed a personal grudge against the CSU administration to dictate the tasteless and indiscreet manner in which he chose to oust a fellow co-worker.

While Colley is taking the plagiarism allegation against Henderson seriously, the CSU dean should take the actions of a professor who has publicly embarrassed their provost and made their college the laughing stock of the entire higher educational community seriously, as well.

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14 responses to “The case of a plagiarized PhD

  1. With all due respect, Ms. Wilson, you know nothing about what is going on at Chicago State University. You make several factual errors in your story and omit relevant historical fact regarding Ms. Henderson’s employment at CSU including the details about her hiring and her performance at CSU. Spend some time at CSU speaking with students, faculty and staff and find out the facts regarding this case first. You nor anyone has yet been able to defend the actions of Ms. Henderson or Wayne Watson. Look at the evidence and then make your argument. You merely rely on conjecture. It is not Dr. Bionaz who is making this university look bad. It is the behavior of Wayne and Angela and the others who are part of Wayne’s inner circle or ‘friends of Wayne’ (FOWs).

  2. Clearly Roosevelt University is not training its students in the significance of plagiarism and its implications, nor in understanding how this is a violation of academic integrity on a grand scale.

  3. This is in response to Latricia Wilson’s column concerning the disgraceful dissertation by Angela Henderson:

    Angela Henderson is no victim. The dissertation she turned in is her work and she is responsible for her own actions. Ms. Wilson pretends Henderson is some poor babe, lost in the woods, completely unaware of the standards that academic works, such as Doctoral Dissertations, must meet. Absurd. Henderson was the Provost at the Chicago City Colleges before coming to CSU and is the interim Provost at Chicago State today. As Chief Academic Officer at both the City Colleges and Chicago State, it would be Henderson’s responsibility to uphold long held and universal academic standards, such as how to properly cite sources used in papers in order to give those who did the original research their due, as opposed to plagiarizing their works. In fact, plagiarism is something that is explained to undergrads. It is beyond credulity that Henderson didn’t know that what she was doing was wrong.

    As for Dr. Bionaz, it’s just plain silly to say its his fault for bringing the cheating and lying engaged in by Henderson to light. By the “logic” engaged in by Ms. Wilson, the thief is an innocent dupe, victimized by the crime scene experts who tie him to his crime. Dr. Bionaz is a tenured member of faculty at Chicago State. Tenure is bestowed upon faculty members, in part, to empower them to speak truth to power and “air the dirty laundry” on their campus without having to worry about being dismissed by a vengeful administration. Dr. Bionaz and the other contributors at the “Crony State University” blog site are commendably owning up to their responsibilities as tenured faculty members. If only every tenured faculty member felt as obligated to do that which they were given tenure to do…..

    The true victims of Henderson’s academic crimes are me and the other students at Chicago State University and the school itself. Incompetents like Henderson have become the face of my school, empowered to be so by the corrupt and incompetent President of Chicago State, Wayne D. Watson, who was a member of Henderson’s dissertation committee. It is this corrupt and incompetent administration as a whole that are the target of Dr. Bionaz and the other contributors of the blog. They have chronicled the debacles caused by Watson and cronies like Henderson for years.

    The damage done to the value of the MA I will get from CSU in December of 2014 is not yet known, but it has been damaged. The damage done to the school by Watson, Henderson, and the rest of the corrupt administration at CSU is quantifiable, however. Enrollment at Chicago State was over 6800 when Henderson came to CSU after failing as Provost at the City Colleges. Enrollment is now 5107.

    Gerald Shinn
    Masters Candidate in History
    Chicago State University

  4. Ms. Wilson’s essay illustrates many common misperceptions about the purpose of a dissertation and the process of earning a Ph.D. The purpose of a dissertation or any scholarly work is to be published, read and responded to by other scholars. Ms. Wilson seems to be under the misapprehension that Angela Henderson’s dissertation committee is responsible for the finished product. University of Illinois’ published requirements for a dissertation explicitly state that it is the student’s responsibility to submit work that conforms to the requirements. Henderson did not do that.

    Yes, her committee members passed on her dissertation, and yes, they had a responsibility to guide her on the requirements; however, the work was submitted and published under her name on the UIC website. All dissertations are published to demonstrate to the scholarly community that the Ph.D. candidate is prepared to do the research, scholarship, writing, and publishing that are central to the jobs of university professors and academic administrators.

    While Wilson wants to hang her defense of Henderson on the word “alleged” the facts are not arguable. Any responsible scholar would recognize the un-cited, un- quoted and downright copied material in the dissertation that has been pointed out by Professor Bionaz. Far from damaging Chicago State University or its reputation because of an imagined personal grudge (Wilson provides no background or evidence for this statement), Professor Bionaz is trying to protect the university’s integrity and reputation from the shoddy scholarship of its interim provost.

    If she wanted to avoid criticism, it was Henderson’s responsibility to spend an adequate amount of time scrutinizing her work for flaws. Genuine scholars who earn their doctorates by doing careful scholarship and submitting work that is free from errors of any kind, including citation errors, need not have any fear for their futures. Students who cut corners or cheat will suffer the natural consequences. Henderson has brought her disgrace on herself.

    If Angela Henderson cannot conform to common academic standards in her own scholarly work, how can she hold CSU’s doctoral students to those standards? If they are not held to those standards, their doctorates will be as worthless as CSU’s reputation for responsible scholarship should Henderson continue to be Chief Academic Officer. Henderson is a victim of her own carelessness and disrespect for scholarship.

    Robin Benny
    Assistant to the Provost, Chicago State University (2004-2011)
    Director of Freshman Composition, Chicago State University (1986-2004)

  5. Good day I, Latricia Cherise Wilson wrote the Torch article on the ridiculous an avoidable
    plagiarism allegations against Angela Henderson. I must ask you all one question.
    And this one is a grammar school question for all you distinguished intellectuals out there.
    If your 4th grade teacher gave you an “A”letter grade and then while you are in the
    6th grade your professor says to you “I’m sorry Sally (made up name) but someone just informed
    me that you plagiarized one of you paragraphs in the essay you wrote about hummingbirds.I am
    going to have to now take back the “A” I gave you.You may even need to come back to the 4th grade.”

    Well my question is to all you very smart people out there is whose fault is it that Sally got
    an “A” to begin with and was only penalized when someone else brought it to the
    teachers attention.

    Im just saying folks. Oh yeah, I will correct all and any factual errors I may have made and indeed
    apologize for the errors. But I will never correct my original opinion unless the facts of this entire scenario
    changes dramatically. Thank you smart people and have a great day.

    • OH! So you’re saying Angela Henderson is to be held to the same standard as a 10 year old in 4th grade. How silly you are to hold a grown woman to the standards of a child.

      Henderson committed academic fraud. The fact the fraud wasn’t detected right away doesn’t change the fact she committed fraud and should be stripped of that which she gained through fraud.

      Or are you so devoid of honesty, scruples, and morals that you defend fraud?

    • Ms. Wilson, the petulance of your reply does you no credit. First, you would be wise to copy edit your work before publishing it. The correct use of commas and apostrophes should be second nature to a contributor to a newspaper, no matter how modest its readership. Second, no one has taken away Henderson’s Ph.D. That is a decision the University of Illinois must make. The fact is, whatever their decision, the dissertation is full of flawed citations. A cheater is a cheater whether she is caught or not.

      • I,Latricia Wilson posted a comment in response to the individuals who
        disagreed with my opinion. I did not post a comment with the intention
        of it being totally correct in grammar and comma usage. However my article
        was published with the intention of it meeting basic english grammar standards
        and Journalistic standards. I am totally not offended by your constructive
        criticism of my comment. However my comment is simply just a comment
        and not a straight edge news article. Neither is it a novel or a dissertation.
        Therefore, I will not spend a great deal of time editing and cross examining
        comments I make on this site. However, one thing that is “second nature”
        to me is common sense. And my common sense tells me that the UIC should
        be taking a hard look at their doctoral faculty to find out what went wrong and
        how a person was allowed to graduate with a PhD only to be ridiculed later
        for plagiarism. This shouldn’t ever ever ever ever happen again. And yes I did use the
        word ever four times because I am only making a comment and not writing an essay
        for class. And one thing you are so correct about Robin, is that the final decision is up
        to UIC administration. I am simply expressing my feelings about this case.In which I believe I have the right to do in this country

  6. If someone commits a misdeed (whether it’s a fourth grader committing plagiarism or an adult killing someone and making it look like a heart attack), the guilt does not magically shift from the person committing the crime to those who were deceived and missed the original offense. The guilt stays with the original offender, no matter how long it takes to uncover the truth. If Ms. Henderson did indeed plagiarize, she is guilty of it, no matter how lax others were in their non-detection of it. [And oddly, you chastise the one person, Dr. Boniaz, who has not been lax.]

    Just out of curiosity, Ms. Wilson, what is your relation to Ms. Henderson? Why would someone at Roosevelt even care? I, like the other people responding to your essay, have had a long relation with CSU and hate to see it being reduced to an academic version of Streets and Sanitation. If Ms. Henderson is a friend, neighbor, or relative of yours, I think it would be intellectually and journalistically honest for you to put that out as a disclaimer. Of course, you can always blame everyone else for not catching it.

  7. Ms. Wilson, I am a student at Roosevelt University but also a former student of Chicago State University. I entered CSU the year Watson was “elected” President and I stayed and fought with my peers up until 2012 to try to change a atmosphere that was not empowering us students to do better. More and more I see students from CSU transfer to Roosevelt because of the unjust policies of the Watson Administration. I give this very brief background because a PROVOST job is to uphold academic excellence. The background of “Dr.” Angela Henderson can be found on the faculty blog (which I highly recommend you read) and understand what this fight is about. These are not bitter faculty members. These are passionate students and faculty that want better results out of the institution that they represent. I praise Dr. Gomberg, Dr. Beverly, and Dr. Bionaz for their hard work and positive educational values.

    I encourage you to reach out to students like myself and interview us on Chicago State University. We will have so many great things to say about the institution that we love but also address the changes that need to happen in order for positive media light to be thrown their way.

    Laurence Patterson II
    Roosevelt University
    NAACP Advisor (Chicago State University)

    • I certainly appreciate you expressing your thoughts about CSU with me and
      your viewpoint of this issue. I must say I feel that the CSU provost has been
      dealt a bad card.

      I feel that way because it appears that her dissertation was
      not adequately reviewed before she was awarded a PhD.

      Also, I do feel that she should not be the only one to be publicly named and embarrassed about this case. There is a reason why a dissertation committee is selected to review the academic readiness of doctoral candidates.

      Until the UIC no longer depends on a doctoral committee to examine and review the literary work of their students, the responsibility of a plagiarism free thesis should be that of the UIC committee and student.

      I do not understand why a plagiarism program was not used to dissect Henderson’s thesis before it was published and posted on the UIC website.

      However, if you would like to speak with me feel free
      to e-mail me at lwilson20@mail.roosevelt.edu.

      • Ms.Wilson, It is hard to believe that Roosevelt University allows such absurdly immature, reckless sentiments to be associated with its “university” publications Can’t imagine what kind of limited training program you are involved with, but it is obvious you have a ceiling and it is limited, very limited.

        Even my 3rd grade niece understands the concepts of academic responsibility; and your thinking is too pathetic almost to respond to. First of all, your limited “look” at Chicago Tribune story entirely missed the disgustingly unethical relationship between Henderson and Watson—and the fact this slimebag rodent Watson published her name in school brochure gave her job—-before she even had degree. Secondly, don’t you even get it that Watson violated ethics because he was her dissertation committee?

        Thirdly, how pathetic that you attend a university, but apparently have NO idea what a Provost does:
        Provost is supposed to represent highest standards of academic integrity; a person who is sworn to uphold principles and values an objective and fair person who is capable of deciding complicated situations based on ethical processes and academic integrity. A person paid well into 6 figures, and one toxic slimeball hired another slimeball, to hold offices meant to be held by persons such as the previous Provost Sandra Westbrooks, a person who could NOT be bought, swayed,, a person with an immovable moral compass—–a person who slimeball rodent Watson “drove out” until she exited school suddenly June 2013.

        How ignorant of you to say anything about Professor Bionanz, who is courageous shining brilliant genius standing up for principles and values. Great good people don’t want liars, cheaters, thieves to be at the helm of their workplace and university. Why don’t you work for a gang boss for a few months, because that is who is in the 2nd & 3rd floor Cook Building at Chicago STate: THUGs, Slimbeballs.

        Look up the March 1, 2013 Chicago Sun Times headlines: “Governor Requests Wayne Watson STEP DOWN immediately out of his office”. It was a done deal, and then Watson cried to Jesse Jackson Sr. to hold a 5 hour closed door session until midnight—-until they let little rodent Watson stay. Yeah, THanks Jesse. You might do some good things, but this one was ROTTEN TO THE CORE. Oh, that’s right, Jesse’s got a son prof at Chicago State….I

        We need great people quality leaders, not CRIMINALS

  8. Ms. Wilson,

    Your analogy that this is akin to a 6th grader being punished for something he or she did in 4th grade is painfully flawed and wholly inappropriate. This is not a spelling quiz or a connect-the-dots exercise. This is medical research. I do not believe anyone has questioned the validity of her arguments or the conclusions she reached based on the data in her study, but how could anyone accept those conclusions now that the work has been exposed as fraudulent? This is a study regarding attitudes and behaviors regarding condom use, contraception and STD prevention among young, African American males, a population that is seeing alarming rates of STD and HIV/AIDS transmission despite decades of public awareness and education efforts.

    I am surprised you are so nonchalant about someone plagiarizing and potentially falsifying results in a study on such an important topic. Since you obviously are motivated to defend the African American community and African American women, it is really shocking that you are choosing to deflect the blame away from the person bearing the most responsibility. What if the conclusions Dr. Henderson reached are invalid due to the plagiarism and lead to an increase in the HIV/AIDS rate in African American males in Chicago? This is not just an abstract, theoretical exercise with no bearing on everyday life. This is a shocking betrayal of the values and the oath that Dr. Henderson swore to uphold when she became a nurse.

    Dr. Henderson is not a child. In addition to the Ph.D. she was recently awarded, she holds masters degrees in nursing and in business administration. She is not an innocent waif led by the hand by her dissertation advisor to unknowingly and innocently misquote a few lines in her dissertation. Were you to commit such an act at Roosevelt, you would be expelled with little or no hope of ever being re-admitted.

    No, Dr. Henderson is responsible for this debacle, and she is taking the brunt of the blame in the media and the public eye. And she deserves it.

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