MacEwan's Investigative Committee ...

None of this information is new. It was all given to David Higgins and/or Susan May (the Investigative Committee Chair).

An Investigative Committee was struck in accordance with policy C5051. And that is where adherence to policy ends, again.


I attempted to present four main arguments in my defenses:

  1. The action was taken after consulting with the Chair regarding the use of my textbook, we agreed that it was important to ensure student learning was not being negatively affected by me using my textbook. We agreed that an obvious way to do this was to have some common assignment questions. Since the assignment questions were from Petrucci, I adapted and incorporated a few of the assignment questions from Petrucci into my developing textbook. 

  2. I did not use questions verbatim. I rewrote every question to my question style, and often changed the data and focus of the questions. I argued that information and data is not covered by copyright, and chemical equations are common in all chemistry textbooks. I argued that this is a common practice in science textbook development.

  3. The questions were likely not original to Petrucci — he adapted the ideas and data from other textbooks into his textbook.

  4. The citation rules are different for textbooks compared with scholarly articles. Surveying one chapter in a random textbook, I identified over 20 points that would have been cited if the information was in a scholarly article. I also pointed out that my textbook has more citations than those I reviewed preparing my submissions.

I reiterate that I attempted to make these arguments. I made these arguments in writing, but was prevented from making them in person. Susan May informed me in advance that this information was not pertinent to the Committee's work. May stopped me whenever I attempted to discuss any of these points at the hearing. Samantha Kernahan (MacEwan's in-house legal counsel) was an active, vocal member of the Committee. So while I made these arguments in writing, I suspect they were discounted and dismissed by May and Kernahan, and ignored by the Committee.

Submission 1: response to Higgins initial complaint

Submission 2: rebuttal to collected evidence

I was not supported by the Faculty Association in preparing these submissions.

Concerns regarding the Investigative Committee composition and process

From: Susan May
To: ΑΩ
Date: Thu, 18 Aug 2011 11:16
Subject: Confidential Re: Confirmation of Date and Time re Investigation Committee meeting

Hello ΑΩ.

With respect to your scheduled meeting with the Investigation Committee, we need to retain the previously agreed to date and time of Tuesday, August 23 from 2:00 to 3:00. The Investigation Committee already accommodated one time change at your request.

As indicated in my letter to you of June 24, 2011, I advised you that you could be accompanied at the meeting by a person of your choice, with the explicit request that you provide the name of the person to me by July 12, 2011. It was your choice whether you chose to bring legal counsel, a Faculty Association representative, or other party, but the Committee does not endorse more than one person accompanying you to the meeting

The committee has also previously determined that the meeting notes would be recorded in written form, and not tape recorded.  You and/or the person who accompanies you to the meeting can of course make your own personal notes of the proceeding, and we will provide time for this occur.

Thank you.

From: Susan May
To: Jerry Zdril
Cc: ΑΩ
Date: Thu, 18 Aug 2011 11:16
Subject: CONFIDENTIAL attendance at Investigation committee meeting

Hello Jerry.

The committee convened this morning and agreed that 1 representative of the Faculty Association could accompany the researcher to the meeting scheduled for 2:00 this afternoon, as an observer.

We request confirmation and the name of the person who will be in attendance.


On 29 Sep 2011, at 09:28, MacEwan's Interim Resource Officer wrote:

Regarding Aimee's concern. I saw the correspondence from Susan to Jerry stating only one person could attend. Jerry was surprised and we went to the policy and found that this [only one representative] was the informal stage of the investigation. When ΑΩ and Jerry got into the meeting, they found out they were at the formal stage of the investigation. [The formal stage does not restrict the number of people accompanying me.]

Did the Faculty Association grieve this? No!

On 29 Sep 2011, at 10:22, MacEwan's attorney wrote:

I think the problem with the [MacEwan's] legal counsel [on the committee] is twofold: there wasn't parity (e.g., ΑΩ was not allowed to have counsel), and her role in the investigation is not clear. The latter is important because it seems from the description of the Aug. 23 meeting that she was fairly active in the meeting, as opposed to simply providing advice to the committee. It's just one more way that the committee has been unclear regarding the process. 

Did the Faculty Association grieve this? No!

For the scientists: a vivid recollection from the hearing. The Committee could not understand why I had used the same stoichiometric coefficients as Petrucci. For example, consider the chemical equation

2 SO2(g) + O2(g) --> 2 SO3(g)

They were concerned (1) that I was using the same chemical equation, and (2) that I didn't change the numbers, to say SO2(g) + 2 O2(g) --> 3 SO3(g)

I do not believe they ever believed my explanation.


I submitted these and other concerns to Paterson-Weir, who dismissed them.

Concerns regarding the Investigative Committee composition and process

Higgins' submission

Higgins' initial complaint was 7 of the 22 questions identified by Pearson Education. Of course, Higgins selected the 7 most similar questions. 

In addition to submitting the complaint, Higgins acted as an investigator by creating and using a "plagiarism detection matrix". Nowhere does Higgins validate or justify his matrix. I obtained a legal opinion on Higgins' matrix, and the attorney stated, "[his] approach has been rejected by the Courts in Canada." My second submission to the Investigative Committee provided the legal opinion and expressed concerns over Higgins inserting himself as an investigator.

Higgins has a Ph.D. in History. There is no indication that he has knowledge about plagiarism, knowledge of how to construct and validate a plagiarism assessment instrument, nor that he consulted anyone for assistance. Indeed, quite the opposite appears to have occurred: he worked alone.

I was not provided with Higgins' verbal testimony. But I do know that his submission to the Harassment Investigator — submissions he made under the assumption that I would never see them — contained numerous exaggerations and errors. What would Higgins tell an Investigative Committee if he knew that I would never see those submissions?

Independent reviews

The committee obtained three scientist to review the questions. They were only given the questions from my textbook and from Petrucci. They determined the questions were similar, just as Higgins had done. And because of the manner in which they were consulted, they were unaware of

  • ​the intent
  • the context
  • common practices in instructional material development
  • the amount of material adapted
  • case law
  • that I had permission from MacEwan

I submit that they weren't provided this information by MacEwan because it didn't serve MacEwan's interest. Two reviewers remarked that not having this information made making an informed decision impossible.


  • Susan May repeatedly prevented me from having representation at the hearing. (a direct violation of policy)
  • Susan May directed that the person accompanying me could only be an observer. (a direct violation of policy)
  • The report failed to list the people the Committee interviewed.
  • The final report of the Investigative Committee does not mention Kernahan's involvement. It is as if she was a covert operative, with the goal of subverting and biasing the Committee. 
  • While waiting to meet with the Committee, I overheard Kernahan making derogatory and dismissive remarks regarding my submissions. Her comments stopped as soon as they realized I was waiting outside.
  • The Committee never sought legal advise beyond Kernahan. The Committee accepted Higgins' analysis, apparently without question.
  • The Committee never received the legal opinion and arbitration decision that Sullivan, Higgins, and Paterson-Weir received. That arbitration decision involved a case with circumstances similar to my own but with greater alleged plagiarism. The decision referred to many of the arguments that I was prevented from making. The arbiter exonerated the faculty member of any wrongdoing.
  • The Committee dismissed and/or discounted my submissions. Submissions that contained points that the arbitration arbiter deemed critical in determining guilt or innocence.


The Committee decision was split. The Committee recommended the absolute minimum disciplinary action: change the questions and better educate myself on plagiarism.

The Committee report states "MacEwan faculty are held to a higher standard that faculty at other institutions." I was following the same practices as other instructional material developers. How much better than Cambridge, Harvard, UBC, UofT, etc., faculty are MacEwan faculty expected to be? Where is this "higher standard" documented? When was it disseminated to faculty? The answers to the last two questions are nowhere and never. This "higher standard" is aethereal — set by Administration on a person by person basis. Changed at their discretion, at any time.


And through all these policy and process violations, the FA Executive refused to get involved.