Trustee Harper to oversee Fitzgerald investigation

Kendyl Seals | Reporter

Tech’s board of trustees voted 6-1-1 on March 22 to appoint vice chairwoman Trudy Harper as their representative in the Fitzgerald Glider Kit research investigation

President Phillip Oldham recused himself from the investigation in February because of his direct involvement with promoting the research.

During the meeting, board chairman Tom Jones told trustees he could not assume that duty because of conflicts with his company’s travel schedule. He then nominated Harper.

Trustee Melissa Geist cast the dissenting vote, saying she believe Harper posed a conflict of interest considering she teaches a class in the engineering department. Trustee John Stites said he believes Harper’s knowledge on the topic of the research is an asset.

Trustee Millard Oakley initially voted for the appointment during a roll-call vote, but then announced he would abstain. Oakley has a business interest in Fitzgerald.

Jones agreed that it would be best for Oakley to abstain under the circumstances.

Tech’s misconduct in research policy mandates a 60-day inquiry in which an appointed Inquiry Committee can gather relevant information. It’s written findings may them be submitted to Harper.

Within 30 days of receiving the written inquiry, Harper must consult with the Research Integrity Officer, the provost and other relevant sources to determine whether to refer the matter to an appointed investigation committee, dismiss the matter, or to take other appropriate action, according to Policy 780.

President Oldham appointed Associate Provost, Sharon Huo, as the Research Integrity Officer in February. The RIO is responsible for assisting committees and personnel to ensure compliance.

If an investigation committee is needed, it must contain at least three people and be drawn from a list of at least six individuals provided by Faculty Senate President Christy Killman, according to university policy.

The investigation phase could take up to 120 days.

To find out more about Policy 780 and misconduct of research go to