University of Windsor suspends its dean of education until at least June 2014 over plagiarism

April 2014

Clinton Beckford, the dean of the faculty of education at the University of Windsor, has been suspended over plagiarism.

In a tersely worded statement issued Monday morning, the university announced that Beckford has begun an “administrative leave” and has been suspended without pay from his position.

According to the statement, the penalty comes “in recognition of an academic integrity breach involving plagiarism.”

The suspension will last until June 30, 2014.

In a phone interview on Monday, U of W president Alan Wildeman repeatedly refused to go into specifics about the nature of Beckford’s plagiarism — such as the number of instances and the extent.

“Those are details that we’re not going to talk about,” Wildeman said. “They aren’t relevant to the bigger issue — which is academic integrity, and the importance of it to the institution.”

Wildeman said Beckford’s publication record was brought to the attention of university administration about two months ago, and a formal investigation took place over a number of recent weeks.

Wildeman would not explain who brought the breach to administration’s attention, or how exactly it was discovered.

“The breach in this particular case involved plagiarism, which means using sources … in an unattributed way,” said Wildeman, adding: “When work appears that is not properly cited, or is not properly acknowledged as coming from a different source.”

Pressed about the severity of Beckford’s plagiarism, Wildeman would only point to the fact that Beckford will eventually be resuming his duties at the University of Windsor as an indicator of the degree of the breach.

“If you look at the kind of sanctions that get imposed as a result of academic integrity breaches, there’s a wide range — often times including termination of employment,” Wildeman said.

“Dr. Beckford has the ability to come back as a faculty member of the University of Windsor. He would not be extended that opportunity were we not completely confident he would be … a contributing member of the faculty.”

But Wildeman said Beckford will not be returning to the dean of education position.

Asked if he’s concerned about how this controversy reflects on the University of Windsor, Wildeman replied: “I think every university is concerned about … the issue of academic integrity. Were we not to take academic integrity very seriously — that would be far worse.”

“We need to be seen to be vigilant about it. We certainly are vigilant about it with our students, and we need to be seen to be doing that (with faculty),” Wildeman said. “That’s the most important issue here.”

“Certainly, we want to hold everyone to the same standards in this.”

Beckford could not be reached for comment.

A PhD graduate from the University of West Indies, Beckford joined the University of Windsor’s teaching staff in 2003.

His areas of research interest are listed on the University of Windsor website as: geography and environmental education, international education, aboriginal education, and education of marginalized groups such as racial minorities, immigrants, refugees and children of war.

Among his published work, the ebsite lists 16 principal publications, three book chapters and two conference proceedings.

Many of his papers have examined teaching for ecological sustainability and Jamaican agriculture — yam farming, in particular.

He has also led students on humanitarian expeditions to the east African country of Tanzania.

Beckford became associate dean of pre-service education in 2007.

He was appointed to the top position of the faculty of education in July, with his term as dean originally to last until 2017.

At the time the appointment was announced, university provost Leo Groarke praised Beckford’s experience in external partnerships, advocacy and curriculum development.

“His strengths in team building, community collaboration and international education will be an asset as the faculty of education embarks on its future course,” Groarke said in June.

Six months later, on Monday, Groarke sent a letter to all faculty of education students confirming that Beckford “will not be continuing as Dean.”

“I expect the university to appoint an Acting Dean in the very near future,” Groarke wrote. “In the interim, classes, examinations and the Education program will continue as normal.”

The university’s annual public sector salary disclosure lists Beckford’s 2011 salary — prior to his appointment to dean — as $134,007, with $898 in benefits.

Patricia Rogers, the dean of the faculty of education before Beckford, was paid $250,475 in 2011, with $1,483 in benefits.