One IUSB professor has accused another of defamation.
A spat that started out on campus will apparently be settled in a courtroom.
“It is evident in my view, and for any expert who is looking at it, that this guy was just out to destroy me because otherwise, he won’t go that length,” said Peter Aghimien, Professor and Chair of Accounting at the Leighton School of Business and Economics at IUSB.
Aghimien believes that trying to protect the academic integrity of a school is one thing—but talking out-of-school—is another.
“I was accused of plagiarism, or research misconduct, by Dr. Mark Fox,” said Aghimien. “However, he crossed the line because the university has, as part of the policy, that this has to be conducted confidentially. So he proceeded, after filing, to start to broadcast my name, to libel me outside.”
The suit alleges that Dr. Fox told department heads and deans about his suspicions and even shared them with the world via a blog.
“He failed to keep the issue confidential as the university requires, and the only conclusion that we can draw from that is Mr. Fox was out to intentionally harm the reputation of Peter,” said Attorney Michael Misch.
Aghimien was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing by an official university investigation, but the process took nearly two years and included many sleepless nights.
“The message here is, when you want to accuse someone and destroy their career, you better make sure you have the information right,” said Aghimien. “And you better be careful how you’re pursuing them. Pursue then the right way and, in a country like the United States where we have a rule of law, it’s essential that you play by the law.”
In a written statement, Dr. Mark Fox denied any wrongdoing: “I am confident that I have not made any defamatory statements against Peter Aghimien. Rather, I have simply pointed out that some of his research contains similar wording with earlier published authors that are not cited.”
To further complicate matters, plagiarism was found on a paper that was co-authored by Aghimien, although he was cleared of any of the wrongdoing.
“Online speech is protected under the first amendment,” said Michael Misch, “There’s a whole lot of case law on that through the federal system and it’s absolutely protected. However, defamatory speech is not protected.”
Misch added, “This isn’t necessarily about Peter getting back at Mark, that’s not what it is. It’s trying to have a clear understanding of how this process is supposed to work and should somebody bring charges against another professor another colleague within the IU system that it’s done the right way, the rules are followed and someone’s reputation within the community and within academia isn’t destroyed based on false accusations.”