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Following ‘pay-for-homework’ allegations, school refuses to clarify relationship with independent investigator

‘The university has said what it is going to say at this time’

A state university appointed a former state supreme court justice to conduct an internal investigation of several scandalous allegations at the school, but the university is refusing to say what relationship, if any, that judge may have with the institution.

Arizona State University recently commissioned an investigation into allegations made by former economics professor Brian Goegan, who claimed that some professors at the school were failing students on purpose and effectively charging students to turn in homework, all as part of a scheme with an educational corporation. Goegan was dismissed from his position after making the claims, though the school said he was let go for reasons other than the accusations.

The school’s student newspaper, The State Press, reported that the student government requested an investigation into the allegations after they became public. Arizona State subsequently announced that Ruth McGregor, the former chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, would be handling the investigation into the matter.

Yet the school is refusing to say if the former justice is involved with the university in any way other than the investigation. Records show that the judge was on the school’s faculty at least once in the past.

Spokesman dodges questions

The College Fix spoke several times to a campus spokesman, Bret Hovell. Hovell had previously responded to The Fix’s earlier queries regarding Goegan’s claims.

At that time The Fix had also asked the school how McGregor had come to be chosen to lead the investigation. Hovel did not directly answer that question but instead provided The Fix with several documents regarding Goegan’s allegations.

The Fix contacted Hovell later specifically to ask about how McGregor was selected for the position, and when her findings would be made public following the investigation’s conclusion. Hovell pointedly refused to address the questions.

“Nothing has changed about what I wrote to you [earlier in the month]. The three documents I sent you more than a week ago represent ASU’s full response to these ridiculous and thoroughly unfounded claims,” Hovell said. He affirmed in that email that he was speaking “on behalf of the leadership of the university and the university itself.”

In a followup email The Fix clarified that the new line of questioning was specifically focused on McGregor instead of the broader issue of Goegan’s claims. Yet Hovell still refused to answer the questions, including what relationship, if any, McGregor has with the university now.

“We can quibble all day about whether the questions are different or not. The ultimate point is this: The university has said what it is going to say at this time,” he said.

Investigator has history with school

Ruth McGregor has been associated with Arizona State University in the past. She received her Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Arizona State University’s law school. After retiring from the court in 2009, McGregor joined the faculty at the law school in 2010. At that time she was named a “Distinguished Jurist-in-Residence” by the law school dean.

According to the school, McGregor was also tapped to “help lead the Project on Federalism and Separation of Powers in a Global Era” as well as “teach a course on human trafficking in spring 2011 and co-convene a conference on that topic with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.”

McGregor does not appear to be a current faculty member of the school, based on website records. The Fix could not obtain contact information for McGregor to clarify her relationship with the university.

In a letter written by Provost Mark Searle that Hovell provided to The Fix, the provost said that the school, in seeking a candidate to lead the independent investigation, sought “someone with unimpeachable integrity and credentials who could be counted on to be fair, impartial and honest in the execution of this important task.”

McGregor is also leading an investigation regarding prison safety at the Arizona Department of Corrections. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said he trusted McGregor to help lead this investigation because she is “well-respected for [her] legal expertise and prolific records of public service… [she] bring[s] decades of experience with our justice system and can provide an independent, non-partisan investigation.”

The school stated that Justice McGregor will receive full cooperation from all university personnel she deems necessary to the investigation and that the process will be concluded by May 17.

MORE: State justice will investigate school for possible corporate homework scam

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About the Author
Ryan Everson -- Arizona State University