Chris Spence Under Investigation by OCT

By | August 28, 2015

Chris Spence, the former Director of TDSB, who is currently fighting the University of Toronto over alleged plagiarism issues in his doctoral thesis, is now also being investigated in a disciplinary hearing by the Ontario College of Teachers. A notice of hearing has been posted on the website under Spence’s certificate of qualification, although no formal date has been set for the case.

In their notice of hearing statement, OCT alleges he “failed to maintain the standards of the profession … he signed or issued, in his professional capacity, a document that he knew or ought to have known contained a false, improper or misleading statement” and that “he committed acts that, having regard to all the circumstances, would reasonably be regarded by members as disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional.”

OCT also argue that there were cases of plagiarism in Spence’s speeches, entries on his blog and his books he published. Journalists have also discovered examples of plagiarized materials in his writing for Amazon.ca and The New York Times.

As a certified teacher, Spence must abide by the Code of Ethics set out by the college. At the time the plagiarism surfaced, the college said it was very much aware of the matter. Two and half years after the incident first surfaced, they are taking action. Rightly so?

Spence has admitted to plagiarizing his phd thesis and is taking responsibility, claiming he was overworked, over-ambitious and overly reliant on the help of assistants. He also argues that it was his assistants who failed to attribute their information. A sign of a paper pusher?

This “acknowledgement” and “apology” was captured in a News Release entitled Director Chris Spence’s Statement With Regards to Op-Ed. Part of his statement read:

Earlier this month, I wrote an op-ed for the Toronto Star. The subject of the op-ed was sports and young people. It’s a subject I am passionate about, having been involved in sports, and education, for as long as I can remember.

I wrote that op-ed and – in no less than five different instances – I did not give proper credit for the work of others. I did not attribute their work. I did research and wrote down notes and came back at it the next day, and wrote down the notes.

I can provide excuses for how and why this happened – that I was rushed, that I was sloppy, that I was careless – but that’s all they would be: excuses. There is no excuse for what I did. In the position I am honoured to occupy, in the wonderful job I do every single day, I of all people should have known that.

I am ashamed and embarrassed by what I did. I have invited criticism and condemnation, and I richly deserve both.

Words of apology are not enough. So I want to describe what I intend to do, too.
He went on to outline a 5-step “program” of what he intended to do. One of them really caught my eye at the time and I almost chuckled at the “too little, too late” nature of the irony:

“I intend to enroll myself in the Ethics and Law in Journalism course offered by Ryerson University. A component of that course is identification, and avoidance, of plagiarism. I will enroll in that course at the earliest opportunity.”

It turns out that this apology was the beginning, and not the end, of hell. And with all the criticism TDSB is getting over deficits, half-capacity schools and unethical trustees, this story is not by the least helpful.