UTD drops academic fraud case against professor in police program scandal

An exterior shot of the University of Texas at Dallas.
An exterior shot of the University of Texas at Dallas.

University of Texas at Dallas administrators dropped academic fraud accusations against one of the three professors they previously threatened to fire over a law enforcement program at the school.

The criminology professors, Robert Taylor, John Worrall and Galia Cohen, said the university publicly scapegoated them over the police program that the school claimed granted students credits for courses they did not take.

The university accused them of academic fraud, saying the program’s credit system, where students took off-campus classes and received school credit, was not up to UTD standards.

However, Taylor, Worrall and Cohen said the administration has known about the program since July 2016 and explicitly supported it.

On Thursday, the university ended termination proceedings against Cohen, the professors’ lawyer, Frank Hill, said.

“As to Dr. Cohen, we’re so pleased about it because it was just an outrage that the university sent out this accusation of something so terrible of academic fraud and sent it to the newspaper. It immediately cost her another job opportunity that had been offered to her,” he said. “It was devastating to her physically and emotionally.“

The professors filed their lawsuit against the university in district court on Feb. 12.

The controversy began over the Justice Administration and Leadership Graduate Program, in which students would enroll in a UTD course, take an equivalent course elsewhere and receive UTD credit for it.

Members of the UTD administration told The Dallas Morning News, which published an investigative story on the program, that the program was not in accordance with UTD policy and they did not know about it.

In a letter to Cohen, University President Richard Benson continued to say the program fell short of UTD standards and caused “significant and severe” consequences to the university. However, he cleared Cohen of any official wrongdoing, saying she was subordinate to Taylor and Worrall and believed in the validity of the program.

Hill said the administration has backpedaled from its previous accusations of academic fraud, and now instead says there was not a policy in place allowing the program’s credit system.

“It’s too bad they didn’t have the courage to admit their mistake, but that is the university,” Hill said.

Taylor and Worrall’s case will be sent forward to an administrative hearing. Hill says he has “little doubt” they will be cleared.

In the letter to Cohen, Benson acknowledge the popularity of the program at the university, which many local law enforcement officers used.

“Subsequent to this issue being publicized by the news media, I received unsolicited feedback from members of the community defending the program and its value to the law enforcement community,” Benson said in the letter. “It is apparent that your efforts over the years, particularly as a teacher, contributed to the success of the program.”

The University of Texas at Arlington has reached an important benchmark toward becoming one of Texas top research universities. UTA was already identified as one of the emerging research universities.

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Kaley Johnson is a breaking news and enterprise reporter. She majored in investigative reporting at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has a passion for bringing readers in-depth, complex stories that will impact their lives. Send your tips via email or Twitter.