University Taking Plagiarism Allegations Seriously

Published: November 28, 2012 | Read Time: 2 minutes

Southern Utah University continues to take action in response to a former employee’s accusations about the quality of the University’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program.

The University is currently pursuing an independent, third-party entity—an accredited ESL program at a peer institution—to conduct a program audit of SUU’s ESL program as it relates to the charges of plagiarism.  It is anticipated that this thorough review will commence in the next few days.

“It’s very important that we have someone not affiliated with the University take a look at our program and make some very objective recommendations for us,” said Vice President Dean O'Driscoll.  “This will help us determine what problems may exist and at what level so we can take the next step.”

During this initial investigation into the allegations, the ESL instructor accused of ignoring the problem has been placed on probation.

Belinda Frost resigned from SUU’s ESL program as an adjunct instructor on November 14 and then told a reporter she quit because of concerns about plagiarism being widespread and tolerated within the ESL program.  She shared homework assignments from another instructor’s class to demonstrate her point to a reporter.

There are 170 students in the ESL program, with the majority of them coming from Saudi Arabia, Korea and China.  The students whose homework papers were shared with the media were level-one students in the program that has five increasingly difficult levels.  Once they have shown competency in English, ESL students are allowed to enroll in standard University courses.

“The University takes these allegations extremely seriously because academic integrity is our lifeblood,” said Vice President Dean O’Driscoll.  “We look forward to the program audit so we can begin to make any necessary changes that could enhance the program.”

SUU President Michael T. Benson is attempting to have a meeting with Frost to talk about the situation in person.  He first heard about the situation when he was copied in an email from Frost as she announced her resignation on November 14.  He responded within two minutes to the University’s Provost.

Nina Hansen, the instructor Frost accused of ignoring plagiarism, is pursuing theft charges against her former colleague, following Frost’s initial contact with the media. If there is any additional investigation needed on a possible criminal charge being filed by Hansen, it will be handled by local police and the Iron County Attorney’s office.

A previous no trespassing notice given to Frost has been modified to allow her to go anywhere on campus except the ESL office and teaching space.  That modification notice was delivered to Frost by the chief of police on November 28.

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