In an interview yesterday, University President Mary Sue Coleman said she was “disappointed” with a story in a local newspaper that said University officials steered hundreds of student-athletes toward taking independent study courses taught by Psychology Prof. John Hagen.
The story, which was published in the Sunday’s edition of The Ann Arbor News, suggested that Hagen’s classes weren’t rigorously graded and that little work was required in them.
“I’m disappointed in the story because I think it’s pretty clear that the University’s been very proactive,” Coleman said. “If anything comes to our attention, of course, we always investigate it.”
The report found that of the 294 independent study courses Hagen taught between fall 2004 and fall 2007, 251 were with student-athletes. The News also reported that student-athletes averaged higher GPAs in Hagen-taught courses than in other classes. The article reported that 21 student-athletes averaged a 3.63 GPA in 32 of Hagen’s courses – 25 of which were independent study classes, while the same student-athletes carried just a 2.57 GPA in other courses.
Coleman said she stood by Hagen despite the story’s suggestions, citing two University investigations of his classes that found no wrongdoing.
“When the Provost’s office was alerted that The Ann Arbor News had an interest in Professor Hagen, there was another investigation by the LSA and by the Executive Committee of the department,” Coleman said. “In both cases, it was that he followed all the rules and everything was fine. And I believe that. I think that he’s a distinguished professor and I don’t think there’s any evidence that he’s done anything wrong.”
When asked whether she had any concerns about Hagen’s independent study courses, Coleman said she didn’t.
The Ann Arbor News story has also spurred discussion and infighting within the Department of Psychology.
Psychology Prof. Scott Paris, who first brought Hagen’s courses to the department’s attention, has drawn scrutiny from some colleagues for bringing the issue to light. Paris was also quoted in The News’s story.
The Michigan Daily obtained an e-mail message yesterday sent by Bill McKeachie, professor emeritus of the psychology department, to the entire department, saying he was “aghast” that Prof. Paris would allege academic misconduct by Hagen. He called the allegation “a crazy destructive thing.”
Paris then responded to McKeachie’s message in an e-mail visible to the whole department. In the message, he wrote that he perceived a “‘crazy destructive thing'” happening within the department, leading him to raise questions about Hagen’s independent study courses.
“I did not reply to those reports, I never said a disparaging word about John, and I did not write the story in the Ann Arbor News,” Paris wrote. “If being concerned about academic integrity in the department, and following standard procedures for reporting those concerns, ‘burns my bridges’ at UM, it will be unfortunate, but I chose to follow my principles about teaching at UM. I can live with that, and hope my colleagues can also.”
Contacted by phone last night, Paris declined comment, saying he wanted to distance himself from The Ann Arbor News’ story.
Theresa Lee, who chairs the Department of Psychology, said she thought McKeachie might have sent the e-mail to the entire department by mistake, hitting “Reply to all” instead of “Reply.”
Nonetheless, Lee sent an e-mail after the exchange between McKeachie and Paris to say “that this was not an appropriate forum for this argument to take place” and that “the rest of the department doesn’t want to see flames thrown between professors.”
– Daily News Editor Andy Kroll contributed to this report.