The Texas Supreme Court Has Ruled That Universities Have The Authority To Revoke Degrees

The University of Texas and Texas State University systems may withdraw degrees that graduates who engaged in academic misconduct acquired, according to a 6 to 2 decision by the Texas Supreme Court.

Debra Lehrmann, the court’s senior justice, stated on behalf of the majority that “the only distinction between dismissing a present student for academic misconduct and revoking the degree of a previous student for the exact same academic infraction is one of chronology.”

This distinction is irrelevant to the matter at hand and incorrectly bases the university’s limited jurisdiction to deal with academic misconduct by its students on the timing of that wrongdoing.

Once their advisers revealed that the graduates obtained their doctorates through fraud in their dissertations and the universities attempted to cancel their degrees, two graduates, identified in the ruling by the initials K.E. and S.O., filed a lawsuit against the institutions.

According to the ruling, the advisers claimed that they became aware of the alleged fraud while working with the graduates after they had graduated. The adviser of S.O. had to retract an article he had written using S.O.’s data after another graduate student’s experiments revealed that some of the data were incorrect.

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The judgement states that S.O.’s adviser “filed a complaint against her for academic misconduct relating to some of the data provided in her dissertation,” while K.E.’s adviser “discovered anomalies in K.E.’s dissertation research data that led the adviser to assume K.E. had altered the data.”

Lehrmann wrote in the decision, dated March 31 but made public on Wednesday, “In fact, if timing were as essential as K.E. and S.O. indicate, we struggle to establish when a university reaches the point of no return.” Is it at the commencement speech?

When is the diploma commemorating the degree’s award printed? when the final box on an administrative form that certifies all conditions have been met is checked? When a doctoral candidate successfully defends her dissertation?

She wrote, paraphrasing an earlier viewpoint, “A degree is not just a piece of paper; it is a university’s certification to the world at large of the recipient’s educational success and fulfillment of the institution’s criteria.”

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