In the midst of an allegation that a senior administration official improperly used the work of a faculty member, the College says it is working to update and expand its policy to protect intellectual property.
Dean of Academic Affairs Craig McEwen said in an interview with the Orient yesterday afternoon that much of the College's current policy is three decades old and has not been updated to reflect technological changes. McEwen said that the timing of the policy update was not a result of the allegation.
At a faculty meeting last April, Professor of Biology Carey Phillips?a Bowdoin faculty member since 1985?voiced concern that the work of an unidentified faculty member had been used in a grant application without that professor's permission.
"Unpublished work of a faculty member was submitted, essentially verbatim, as a grant proposal without the knowledge or permission of the faculty member," Phillips said, according to the minutes of the April 4 faculty meeting. The minutes were acquired by the Orient from the College's archives.
McEwen told the Orient that he was unable to comment on the accuracy of Phillips' claim because it involved a personnel issue.
A well-informed source indicated that the grant, submitted during the last academic year, involved a computer-based learning center, but was subsequently withdrawn after its submission.
Faculty members and others who asked not to be identified confirmed that a senior administration official was the target of the allegation. No one the Orient interviewed would go on the record in verifying the identity of the official. For that reason, the Orient cannot publish the name.
The individual declined comment when contacted by the Orient.
The Orient had scheduled an interview with President Barry Mills about the issue, but it was cancelled due to unexpected travel delays.
At the April meeting, Phillips questioned whether senior staff were held to the same ethical standards as faculty and students. McEwen responded, "Senior staff are subject to the same standards as students and faculty."
He added that the issue would come before the Faculty Affairs Committee in May. That committee did take up the matter, but would not release details as to what happened.
McEwen told the Orient yesterday that last April he was referring to the equal application of ethical standards "as a broad philosophy because clearly there are student honor code rules that apply specifically to students. We don't have an honor code set out in the same form [for staff members], but we do have fundamentally the same expectations or appropriate conduct for attribution, and the expectation is that people won't plagiarize."
He would not comment, however, on whether there was any ambiguity as to how to deal with the situation since it involved a senior administration official and not a faculty member.
Phillips, at the April meeting, went on to question the security of faculty work on the College's computer network.
"Can you address what staff are permitted to do with our grants on file, since many might have access to the servers where faculty store their work?" he asked.
McEwen responded, saying, "this matter is an exception, therefore there is no clear procedure here," adding that the faculty meeting was not the appropriate place for Phillips to bring up such a grievance.
Phillips declined to comment when contacted by the Orient.
Asked about any college policies regarding potential abuses of access to files on Bowdoin servers, Chief Information Officer Mitchel Davis declined to comment.
In the interview with the Orient yesterday, McEwen said he was not aware of any policies regarding access to files on Bowdoin servers. He declined to question Davis's decision not to comment on such policies.
As for when the revised intellectual property policy would be released, McEwen said, "We are close to having one that has been discussed by the Faculty Affairs Committee. We will share it with the faculty I hope this fall, and ultimately it must be endorsed by the Trustees."
The Trustees will meet next in mid-October.
McEwen would not discuss details of the College's actions in response to the personnel issue, nor would he confirm whether any actions have been completed. He also declined to say if the faculty would be informed of any conclusions reached.