Following a College investigation of alleged research misconduct, a Bowdoin professor now awaits a final decision on the matter from President Barry Mills.

Professor of Economics Jonathan Goldstein, a former chair of the economics department and a 29-year tenured veteran of the College, researched in a 2008 paper the effect of athletics on academics at 36 small, liberal arts colleges, including Bowdoin. The paper, which contained results potentially harmful to the reputation of the College, has not been published in a scholarly journal but was posted last August on Goldstein's faculty page of the Bowdoin Web site.

Goldstein's 16-page study, "The Tradeoff Between Extra-Curricular Activities and the Academic Mission of Small Liberal Arts Colleges: Why Some Schools Are Poor Educational Investments," studied various policies at the schools and ranked them according to three factors: grade inflation at the school, the percentage of athletes at the school, and whether the athletic director at the school had Division I, II, or III experience. In the study, Bowdoin ranked 36th of the 36 schools in the survey (see related story, "Study examines grade inflation, athletics").

Mills declined to comment, citing his ongoing involvement in the case, but referred the Orient to Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs Scott Hood.

Hood said that Mills "does not have a timetable" for deciding when the case would be resolved. Hood would not speculate on a possible outcome.

Goldstein said that he felt that the president's decision could range anywhere from a "letter of censure" to "anything short of being fired," since termination of employment would have to go through a faculty committee.

Mills' decision would likely bring to a close an eight-month long dispute between Goldstein and College officials over the content and dissemination of his paper. Goldstein has maintained that the administration's response to his paper stifled his free speech, and that the investigation of its dissemination and contents was unsubstantiated and poorly handled. Administration officials, on the other hand, contend that Goldstein distributed the paper in inappropriate ways, and that it was necessary to investigate possible research misconduct.

The dispute begins

Goldstein said that he first finished his paper "around August 11," and sent it to colleagues at other schools the next day. On August 21, Goldstein linked a "detailed version of my paper on my College Web pages," according to a written synopsis by Goldstein given to the Orient.

In addition to posting the paper online, Goldstein also distributed a shorter version of the paper during admissions information sessions on August 21, 22, and 25 to prospective students and their parents. On August 21, according to Goldstein's written synopsis, he "distributed the paper prior to the beginning of the [information] session" and "had no contact with Admissions Office personnel on that day." On August 25, Goldstein also handed out his summary "without incident." On August 22, however, according to the statement, Goldstein was approached by Interim Dean of Admissions Scott Meiklejohn before the session, who told him "that the information session was a private meeting of the College and that I should not attend it." Goldstein also says that after the conversation with Meiklejohn, the interim dean "closed and locked the sliding doors" to the information session, preventing Goldstein from entering.

Meiklejohn declined to comment, referring the Orient to Hood. Hood said that Goldstein was "interfering with College business" by handing his paper out to prospective students and their families last summer.

"We don't think anybody should be allowed to highjack a tour or an information session," Hood said. "He's welcome to make his point in other ways, but he chose to do that in a disruptive manner, and the College thought it was inappropriate, consulted with attorneys, insurance companies, all of whom agreed with that."

"I do think there are ways to get your message across," Hood continued. "I think one way to do that, particularly when you're doing academic research is to publish your paper, do a peer review, allow people to talk about it from a different viewpoint."

Goldstein said he was surprised by the strong reaction from the College.

"I understand they're probably not happy with me disseminating information which is possibly sending a message contrary to the one that they're sending," Goldstein said. "But then again, this is an academic institution that values free speech and academic freedom. Why should we value that for every other idea except ideas that the administration or the admissions department think shouldn't see the light of day? It's just not consistent."


On August 27—less than a week after Goldstein began disseminating his paper during information sessions—Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd sent a letter to Goldstein telling him that his distribution of the paper was under investigation.

According to a letter drafted by Adam Kissel of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) on behalf of Goldstein and made available to the Orient, the letter from Judd to Goldstein stated that the dissemination of his paper was being examined "in the realm of harassment and hostile work environment, as well as the possible violation of other College policies."

In addition to these issues, which were to be investigated by Director of Human Resources Tama Spoerri, Judd found that Goldstein's "research methods...may need to be considered by the appropriate faculty committee and my office." In a subsequent letter on September 29, Judd wrote Goldstein informing him that possible "research misconduct" was also being investigated. The new allegations were "failure to cite sources" and "plagiarism."

The "failure to cite" charge alleged that the paper "made reference to 'official' sources, but such sources are not cited, nor does the paper explain how the '36 nationally ranked liberal arts colleges' for which comparative data is presented were chosen," according to a copy of the charges Goldstein gave to the Orient. Additionally, in another charge of "failure to cite sources," no sources were cited for one table in the study. The plagiarism charge, which also stemmed from the table that was not cited in the work, alleged that grade distribution information on one table "is derived, without acknowledgment, from the 'Franklin and Marshall Grading Survey of Selected Institutions.'"

Goldstein acknowledged that he made several notes to himself to cite the table, but that he had unintentionally forgotten about the citation.

On October 17, according to Kissel's letter, "Spoerri's investigation cleared Goldstein of the harassment and hostile environment allegations. Spoerri "found only that Goldstein had failed to treat colleagues 'with respect and proper protocol'" in his run-in with admissions officials.

But the charges of academic misconduct were examined more thoroughly, with Judd initiating an initial inquiry, as stipulated by the Faculty Handbook.

On November 10 an inquiry committee, assigned by Judd and comprised of Professor of Mathematics William Barker, Associate Professor of Gender and Women's Studies Kristen Ghodsee, and Professor of Anthropology Scott MacEachern determined that the allegation of research misconduct was "of sufficient substance to warrant further investigation." The committee did add, however, that "the document at the center of the allegation is potentially somewhat embarrassing to the College." The committee also observed a possible conflict of interest in the case since Judd was not only serving as complainant (defined in the Faculty Handbook as "a person who makes an allegation of misconduct in research") but also as the Dean for Academic Affairs, who is supposed to have an impartial role in dealing with allegations of research misconduct.

The Faculty Handbook is unclear about allegations of research misconduct that are raised by the Dean for Academic Affairs.

Goldstein maintains that there was a "blatant conflict of interest" in the case by having Judd serve as Dean and complainant.

Judd declined to comment about the inquiry.

Hood said he did not see a conflict of interest in having Judd serve as both the complainant and the Dean, and stated that Judd raised the issues of possible research misconduct surrounding Goldstein's paper "according to what the Faculty Handbook makes her do."

In addition to the possible conflict of interest, the initial inquiry committee recommended that if the issue was pursued further by Judd, that "the status of the document in question, and its position along a continuum between draft and published paper" should also be considered.

Furthermore, the committee recommended that the "question of 'honest error' in cases of alleged research misconduct" be taken into account.

The three faculty members who served on the inquiry committee declined to comment, citing the need to preserve confidentiality in the case. The Faculty Handbook states that "To the maximum extent possible, the inquiry committee will provide confidential treatment to the affected individuals."

Goldstein, who has waived his right to confidentiality in the proceedings, said he did so "because of the nature of the process."

"If everything remained confidential, the College basically has the power," he said, "particularly if things go to a litigation stage, since the College has deep pockets."

Investigative committee findings

Eight days after the inquiry committee reported its findings, Judd wrote in a November 18 letter to Goldstein that she was going to "convene a formal investigation" of the allegations of plagiarism and failure to cite sources against him, according to the FIRE letter. Judd appointed Professor of English Marilyn Reizbaum, Professor of Chemistry Ron Christensen, Professor of Psychology Louisa Slowiaczek, and Colby College Professor of Government Calvin MacKenzie to the investigative committee. (According to the Faculty Handbook, "committee members may be from within or outside the Bowdoin community.") These committee members also declined to comment, citing confidentiality.

Last Friday, after approximately four months, the committee released its findings to Goldstein and Judd. Due to the confidential nature of the proceedings, College officials would not comment on the complete report. However, Hood did say that the committee recommended that "Judd step aside, and she has done that," by recusing herself from the case and handing it off to Mills.

According to Goldstein, the investigative committee also dropped the plagiarism charge, while the "failure to cite" charge was maintained.

Goldstein also gave the Orient an excerpt of the committee report, which suggested that any misconduct during his research could be considered unintentional.

"The distinct possibility that these actions were not intentional should be a mitigating factor in the application of sanctions," the committee wrote.

Goldstein, who said he filed an appeal with Mills shortly after the April 3 findings of the committee, believes that he should not be punished for what he believes are unintentional errors. The Faculty Handbook states that "misconduct in research...does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data."

"Obviously there were some problems with my paper, but I haven't risen to the level of research misconduct," Goldstein said. "If you read the Faculty Handbook, where they define research misconduct, it clearly has to be an intentional act."

Judd declined to comment about the specific details of the case because of the confidential nature of academic misconduct cases.

When is a paper published?

Goldstein's paper also raises complicated questions about when a paper available on the Internet can formally be considered a published piece of scholarship. When Goldstein posted his paper on his faculty Web page at the end of August, he did not identify that the paper was a preliminary draft. But he maintains that a large number of scholars leave unmarked drafts available on the Internet for others to view.

"When people put them up, sometimes they'll put 'preliminary' on them. But infrequently. Sometimes they'll say 'Draft not for Quote.' But the vast majority say nothing," Goldstein said.

Judd did comment in a general fashion regarding this issue, saying that there were specific guidelines for posting drafts of papers on the Internet.

"Many faculty members publish their research on the Web," she said. "And open access is something that we talk freely about at the College. There are standard conventions about how material in draft form is supposed to be labeled, and if information is not intended to be published or circulated widely, people put it behind a password on a Web site or they disseminate it in other ways.

"But drafts tend to be labeled draft," she added. "Often, they are labeled with 'Draft: not for circulation' because they are for a limited audience. Or they might be labeled 'Draft: not for further dissemination' or 'work in progress.' People typically, if the work is not ready for circulation, don't use the Web as the way in which they disseminate it to a subset of peers who are commenting on a draft."

Goldstein, on the other hand, said that during his time as an editor for the "Review of Radical Political Economics," he frequently came across incomplete citations that were usually fixed by communicating with the author.

"I've served on the editorial board of this journal for six years, and you're getting incomplete cites and table citations all the time," he said. "What you do is say, 'How about completing this cite?'"

Moving forward

Goldstein said that his relationship with his colleagues and students would probably not change significantly after a decision was reached by Mills.

"I'll have a sour taste in my mouth with respect to the process and the administration," Goldstein said. "As for my colleagues—particularly those in my department—this is just a research project that I'm working on. It doesn't really affect them, and I don't expect there to be any kind of fallout or change."