Stanislaw dismissed, disputes university’s claim he ‘actively misrepresented’ credentials


Richard Stanislaw, a former assistant professor of political science at Kent State, was not renewed as faculty member this school year. Officials cited a “pattern of misrepresentation” regarding Stanislaw’s credentials, as well as a “lack of learning outcomes” in his classes when making the decision to not renew his employment. Stanislaw disputes these allegations. Photo by Brian Smith.

Rex Santus

Richard Stanislaw, an assistant professor of political science and winner of the 2011-12 Outstanding Teacher Award, was not renewed as a faculty member at Kent State for this school year, with administrators citing his teaching approach and “actively misrepresented” credentials as reasons.

Documents obtained from Kent State and Purdue University by the Daily Kent Stater show that Stanislaw, a non-tenure-track faculty member, never completed a Ph.D. program at Purdue.

A Ph.D. is not always required for faculty members, but “you were clearly hired with the expectation that you would make progress toward a doctorate, and you have actively misrepresented the fact that that would not and could not happen,” wrote Andrew Barnes, chair of the political science department, in a notification letter of nonrenewal to Stanislaw.

“In light of the breadth and scope of your misrepresentation concerning the status of your dissertation, the committee and I agree that your appointment should not be renewed.”

In a recent interview with the Stater, Stanislaw admitted he never completed a doctoral program at Purdue, but he rebutted that this was concealed from his employers.

“The fact that I did not complete my Ph.D. was a secret to no one and actually is something I even talk about quite publicly,” Stanislaw said.

“It is most important to them to have credentialed faculty, and the fact is I didn’t have my credentials.”

In actuality, Stanislaw said, some tenured faculty and department officials wanted him out. He was popular among students and employed an atypical teaching method — two things that didn’t sit well with higher-ups and tenured faculty, he said.

“There were faculty members who were suspicious of me precisely because I was popular,” Stanislaw said.

He wasn’t a typical professor. Student-run magazine The Burr published a six-page Q-and-A with Stanislaw in its April 2013 issue, and readers voted him one of the five best Kent State professors in 2012.

Stanislaw said he has submitted an appeal to the university’s decision, but he is not optimistic.

“I plead ignorance on the status of the appeal,” he said. “I have not heard anything from” the university, which he called “rude.”

In response to a public-records request to Kent State asking for Stanislaw’s appeal document, assistant counsel Nichole DeCaprio said there “are no records responsive to this request.”

No Ph.D.

Stanislaw’s record from Purdue shows no activity after 2001.

On his application, Stanislaw listed 2004 as the year of “expected” completion of the doctorate, Barnes’ letter said.

A document charting Stanislaw’s time at Purdue said, “The above named student did not receive a degree from the institution.” Interim registrar Lesa Beals certified the document Sept. 18, 2013.

According to Barnes’ letter, Stanislaw did not submit his official transcript to the university until recently despite “several” requests by department chairs.

Stanislaw’s first offer letter for full-time employment at Kent State, in June 2007, said, “ ‘An official transcript showing completion of the doctoral degree from the awarding University must be sent to the Dean for transmission to the Office of the Provost before your employment begins,’ ” Barnes wrote.

“Finally, when I asked you in an email in February how your dissertation was coming, you replied that it was ‘stalled,’ and you suggested that you hoped to pick it back up soon,” Barnes wrote. “This, of course, would be impossible because you have not been enrolled in a Ph.D. program for the better part of a decade.”

Barnes declined an interview with the Stater.

“It’s no secret at all that I didn’t defend my dissertation, and no one didn’t know that,” Stanislaw said.

Officials always had his transcript, too, he said. That he evaded “repeated requests” was untrue.

“He, I think in there, but maybe in other correspondence … he focused a lot on that ‘stalled’ word,” Stanislaw said. “He asked, at one point, like in a quick email, you know, what the status was, and I replied ‘stalled.’ ”

Kent State spokesman Eric Mansfield said he could not comment on Stanislaw’s dismissal.

He said the university only confirms required credentials. Therefore, the verification of Stanislaw’s Ph.D. would have fallen on the college’s shoulders.

“Kent State University’s Office of Academic Personnel reviews and validates those credentials required for specific jobs by requiring original transcripts from the institution issuing the degree,” Mansfield said in a prepared statement. “The further vetting process for faculty hires often takes place within the individual department or college.”

Classroom criticism

The main reason for the dismissal, Stanislaw said, was that his class followed a “Socratic” teaching method, which relies on discussion and debate, according to Stanislaw’s teaching philosophy, rather than traditional lecture approaches.

“If I have to put up PowerPoint slides and give lots of objective exams where people are just spitting back some facts to me that I think they will forget almost immediately, I don’t think I’d even be particularly good at that, and so, good riddance to that,” he said.

Furthermore, he specializes in political theory — a research area without a good job outlook, and that is not “very measurable,” he said.

“That means there’s less and less room for, in my case, the classes that I teach, as well as the way that I teach them,” Stanislaw said. “And I feel as though there are a lot of students who got a lot out of my classes, and my chair and my department felt differently.

“I think that it’s a sad, desperate sort of direction for Kent State to go. Students are suffering.”

Barnes, along with several classroom observers, noted a pattern of “discussion mostly focused on current events.” Barnes said although the discussion “was generally good, and the students who spoke up after class certainly enjoyed it,” it “was not linked to the material discussed in the syllabus in any systematic way.”

In addition, faculty members who would substitute for Stanislaw’s classes noted that students were often unsure of what had been covered, Barnes’ letter said.

Video by Jason Kostura.

“Standing alone, the concerns regarding your pedagogical approach and, even more disconcerting, the lack of learning outcomes experienced by some students, are significant enough to seriously entertain nonrenewal,” Barnes said.

One of Stanislaw’s two peer reviewers, Patrick Coy, professor in Kent State’s Center for Applied Conflict Management, observed Stanislaw’s class Feb. 7, 2013, as part of his employment review process. Coy, in his written review, said he was surprised by how “basic” much of the class discussion and lecture was.

“While I was observing the class, I had a difficult time understanding what the goals of the various exchanges and discussions might be,” Coy wrote.

In addition, students’ grades in Stanislaw’s classes were “very high,” Coy said. Much of Stanislaw’s exam questions and study-guide examples overlapped, too, calling into question the “meaningfulness of the grades awarded.”

Coy’s “initial impressions” about the correlation between exam and study-guide questions, however, “were wrong,” according to an email sent by Barnes on Feb. 20, 2013, to a university administrator. He asked that his letter be read “as if the exam/study-guide were NOT included.” This email was obtained through Ohio’s Open Records law.

Coy declined an interview with the Stater.

Associate political science professor Michael Ensley peer reviewed Stanislaw favorably, saying his was one of the more “interesting and engaging undergraduate level classes” that Ensley had witnessed in a “long time.”

“The survey results showed that so far Rich is doing an excellent job from the perspective of the students,” Ensley wrote. “Every student indicates that their experience in the course overall is excellent.”

Ensley declined an interview with student media.

Looking ahead

Stanislaw said he does not regret his time at Kent State and the contributions he made here.

“I thoroughly enjoyed teaching and would have contentedly kept doing what I was doing at Kent at least for some period of time,” Stanislaw said.

Students who took his classes probably enrolled in just one or two as undergraduates, he said. Nobody comes to Kent State with political theory in mind.

“I thought, in part, my role was to cultivate citizens, to cultivate better thinkers, to have people be engaged in politics,” Stanislaw said.

Stanislaw said he still plans on one day finishing his Ph.D. at Purdue.

Student Surveys

Richard Stanislaw was a popular professor. Here are some comments via end-of-semester student surveys:

“The best professor I have had at KSU! It’s my senior yr., this says something!”

“Best lecture class I have had in 3 years at college. Most thinking I have ever done in a class as well. All thanks to the teacher.”

“Give him a raise!!!!”

“Very informative, one of the most interesting classes I have taken at Kent State.”

“One of my Top 3 favorite classes and I’m not even in this major.”

“Awesome! Prof was knowledgable (sic) and entertaining. Found a fun way to read, learn, understand Political Thought.”

“Great instructor, Stanislaw should be a required professor.”

“I’m still planning on going back,” he said. “Pretty much everyone in my life nags me on an almost daily basis to.”

James McCann, professor of political science at Purdue, said he worked with Stanislaw, who was once his teaching assistant.

“I remember him to be a very able teaching assistant and somebody who was quite committed to higher education and was very open to using very creative teaching methods,” McCann said. “I would describe him as a well-intentioned and capable teaching assistant.”

He said he was unaware that Stanislaw had never completed his Ph.D. at Purdue.

At the moment, Stanislaw said he’s living in New York City. He’s spending his time writing and pursuing some other endeavors such as acting.

He doesn’t know if he’ll return to the classroom, but it’s a possibility, he said.

“I hope everyone’s doing well,” he said in regards to his former students. “I hope they took something positive away from my classes. I hope they pick up some books occasionally, read the newspaper, vote. Come have a drink with me in Manhattan.”

Contact Rex Santus at [email protected].