Students respond to allegations of plagiarism against WLU President Dr. W. Franklin Evans

West Liberty News

West Liberty University (WLU) has recently been a hot topic in the media, but for the wrong reason– plagiarism by its president. The Oxford dictionary states the definition for plagiarism as “the act or practice of taking someone else’s work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one’s own.”

President W. Franklin Evans, who only began the position in January of this year, was found to have plagiarized his speech at the Sept. 15 Fall Convocation by expressing uncited advice from personal finance author Robert Farrington. In response, Evans’ issued an apology on Sept. 20, including the following in a memorandum, “However, that mistake is in no way indicative of a pattern, or a ‘bigger picture.’ It was merely an oversight, and one for which I am apologetic.” Despite this statement, faculty discovered the following day, Sept. 21, that this was not Evans’ only act of theft, other activities by Evans that incorporated plagiarized material include his Juneteenth speech and an uncredited quote by Doug Williford.

Student Government Association (SGA) Vice President Alexandria Black has been outspoken and frank about the touchy subject. When questioned on her thoughts, Black said the following, “When I found out about the plagiarism, honestly I wasn’t aware of the severity of the situation. The only reason I found out otherwise was because of the professors who stressed the issue to my classes. In my head I was like ‘Okay, it’s just one speech if something wasn’t cited correctly then that’s fine, he apologized so it is okay.’ I started doing my own digging because it was my duty to investigate the situation as Vice President of Student Government. After looking into it further, I had found out that it was much more severe than the information put out to the student body. I started talking to the faculty about it because of how strongly I felt about the situation. Knowing that I am not responsible for speaking about the situation for all the students which is why I took my opinion to Facebook instead of putting out a statement from SGA.”

Black pressed on, stating “I one hundred percent do think that it reflects badly on our school. For example, if you look up WLU then click the news tab via a Google search, there is not a single good piece until twelve or so articles. They are all about plagiarism by Evans. I know that no one wants to graduate from a university where the school’s reputation is known for allowing plagiarism to occur. When we get our degrees, despite all the challenging work that we had endured, we will be remembered for the school that allows plagiarism. I don’t understand how people do not realize how this issue doesn’t affect them, or that it is ‘not that big of a deal.’ it affects so much more than what is told to the face of the students, even though that is slim to nothing.”

Other quotes by Black include excerpts like, “I’ve spoken to international students and they’re afraid to speak up because of ‘how easy they could be sent home’ or because most of them are on scholarships and they’re afraid of losing them for speaking up about the issue,” and ending with “Lastly, I as well as the senators of SGA are absolutely not satisfied with the results and actions being taken to resolve the problem of the plagiarism by the president. We want him OUT!”

Some of Vice President Black’s ideals are shared with students, but with a different resolution, as a student requesting to remain anonymous stated the following, “Honestly, I think my emotions have really shifted from the initial memo President Evans sent out to now. Initially, it seemed like it could be one genuine and truly honest mistake. However, after reading more about the speech he presented, it seems like his whole speech was based on this pivotal article, and that is not something most people would simply forget to cite. In addition, it is problematic the number of times he has plagiarized. I have seen articles saying President Evans has plagiarized at least four times. Hearing this, as a student, is worrisome. If the university is being led by someone with questionable integrity, I am worried about what boundaries become crossable. It also makes me question the integrity of the individuals, including myself, surrounding this issue, if we pretend his actions were justified. There is no justification for plagiarism; however, I personally do not want to see President Evans go, as this gives the opportunity to teach the important lesson of accountability. Being able to admit your own wrongdoings, not recoil in fear from the punishments, and use the punishments to find growth are courageous acts. I appreciate President Evans not wanting to find the effortless way out by quitting, but instead, he is choosing to fight to stay a part of West Liberty University. I hope he continues to take accountability for his actions, while West Liberty University continues to find the most logical solutions. I believe West Liberty University is handling this as maturely as possible and treating the issue with the utmost importance.”

This divide is even further proven by the recent student “no confidence” poll, in which Black stated the SGA President Mackenzie Jones presented it and a little more than half of the students who completed the poll at that time voted against the president on both of the questions.

For more information, contact Michael Antley at [email protected].