Gherkin College has always prided itself on its tradition of academic integrity, but this week the campus is divided over the enforcement of a long-forgotten academic policy still on the books.
In late 2008, Assistant Professor Jeffrey Rover in the Food Sciences department found substantial evidence that his colleague, Professor Siobhan Hendrix, had plagiarized recipes for her latest best-seller, Snacking with Science, paid off critics and researchers alike for positive reviews, and required the students in all her classes to purchase the book. After first learning of her dubious behavior, Rover spent months acquiring incriminating emails, photos, and testimony out of concern for the integrity of his department.
However, when Rover presented his report of Hendrix’s wrongdoings this past April to his dean, he was shocked by the consequences he faced. In a move that resembled a recent case at the University of Michigan, Dean Howard Cochley of the School of Human Sciences ignored the report, indefinitely suspended Rover from his teaching duties, and convened the college’s Tattle-Tale Task Force for the first time in over six decades, inviting Hendrix, the accused, to chair.
The Tattle-Tale Task Force (3TF) was part of the academic by-laws devised by Gherkin’s first faculty council in 1842 and signed by founding President Charles H. Pickles. Designed to punish “snoops, sneaks, and snitches that infiltrate the faculty,” the 3TF has only been implemented four times over the history of the college, but with devastating results.
In a proclamation to mark the original passage of the policy, President Pickles said, “We should hold our esteemed faculty to a high standard of maturity. If they wish to act like undergraduates, they can expect to be treated like undergraduates.” Punishments offered by the Tattle-Tale Task Force have included requiring faculty to participate in new student orientation, pledge Greek organizations, and serve as Teaching Assistants for other professors.
This week, the 3TF concluded its hearing and delivered its ruling on Rover’s case, offering the harshest punishment in the task force’s history. Rover’s impending tenure decision has been delayed a full year, during which time he must live in a residence hall and eat regularly in the campus’s dining halls. He says he has learned his lesson.
“I thought what I was doing would protect the reputation of my department and of Gherkin College,” he explained. “It seems to have only damaged it and set my career back.”
Professor Hendrix could not be reached for comment, as she immediately resumed her book tour schedule upon the hearing’s conclusion.