CALGARY — An Alberta judge says the University of Calgary can rescind a master's degree awarded to a student 15 years ago before allegations he plagiarized parts of his thesis.
John Measor was awarded a master of arts degree by the University of Calgary in 2003.
But prior to defending his thesis in 2002, an examination committee raised a concern regarding plagiarism. He was directed to remove the plagiarism and successfully defended it.
Some 10 years later, Measor was teaching at Saint Mary's University in Halifax when the institution requested a copy of Measor's master's thesis, "Canada and the Imposition of Sanctions on Iraq: 1990-2002." It ran the thesis through a plagiarism detection program and reported the results to the University of Calgary.
The University of Calgary re-examined the document and found "it contained substantial plagiarism."
The university provost demanded Measor return his degree and the registrar of the university rescinded his master's.
Measor lost a number of appeals at the university level before taking it to court. He argued the university couldn't rescind a degree already granted to a student, that the three tribunals had no jurisdiction to consider the alleged plagiarism and that the whole procedure was unfair.
Justice Richard Neufeld disagreed.
"I have concluded that the university was entitled to rescind the degree once it found that the thesis included substantial plagiarism, because the power to award degrees necessarily implies the power of rescission," Neufeld wrote in his ruling.
"I have also decided that procedural fairness was not denied. The three levels of hearing afforded to Mr. Measor, while not perfect, provided him with a level of procedural fairness that was proportionate to the seriousness of the allegations against him."
Neufeld said a university has the right to protect its "institutional integrity" when it discovers a student cheated to receive a degree.
"And in so doing can protect the interests of its students, graduates, and the community it serves."
Measor did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for the University of Calgary said in an email it would not comment on the ruling "as this may be subject to further litigation."
Neufeld also noted that Measor's primary difficulty at each level of appeal was not the procedure used but rather a "basic credibility problem of his own making."
"Not only was he admitting on appeal to plagiarism in his original draft thesis, but he was also presenting a fundamentally different version of events than those he described before the (university's) special committee."
— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter
Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press