UPDATE: Oldham regrets Fitzgerald research endorsements

President Phil Oldham

Editor's Note: This story appeared online at an earlier time, this version is a longer, more detailed version.

President Phil Oldham apologized for his role in the controversial Fitzgerald Glider Kits research and said he regrets signing an endorsement letter sent to Congresswoman Diane Black.

“I want to personally apologize to the entire campus community for any part I played in the incident. The letter that left campus … that letter never should have been sent and it certainly should have never been signed by the president,” Oldham said on Nov. 19.

The president spoke before a capacity crowd in the Tech Pride Room. The faculty senate sponsored the hour-long meeting in which participants questioned Oldham about the University’s internal investigation.

“Faculty, just like other elements of the Tech community, are deeply vested in the reputation and well-being of the institution we love. We wanted the opportunity to ask questions about the outcome of the investigation and where TTU is going forward,” Dr. Troy Smith, faculty senate president, said.

Participants asked questions about several aspects from the investigation addressing why and how the principal investigator was replaced, how changes to tenure policies could have affected faculty’s involvement and what steps administration took to prevent a similar situation from occurring again.

“If we say that the research should have only been sent to the people who sponsored the research, then what’s keeping them from taking it and saying hey, here’s what we’re doing and it’s backed by researchers at Tennessee Tech University and our name gets run through the mud again,” Brian O’Connor, faculty senate member, said.

Oldham responded that while there is an option to initiate a form of internal-review, the traditional process is to rely on the faculty member heading the research to ensure the research continues smoothly.

A nine-month investigation in which Oldham recused himself concluded on Oct. 24. The investigation determined the research was well-conducted, however, some conclusions were inaccurate. 

Oldham said many steps have been taken to prevent a similar situation from happening in the future, however, he highlighted three specific areas of improvement: release results of sponsored research only to sponsor, increase checks on Institutional Conflict of Interest Policy and better understand when a principal investigator should be replaced.

“I appreciate everybody’s concerns and patience as we heal and move forward. I have tremendous faith in the faculty on this campus,” according to a statement sent from Oldham.