Protecting Our Academic Integrity

 

Interim President Thad Seymour Jr. appoints retired U.S. Navy Capt. Wes Naylor as interim director of the Institute for Simulation and Training.

As a university, integrity is at the core of our mission, driving everything we do. That’s why when we find violations of trust, we must act.

Earlier today, we began the process of terminating the director of the Institute for Simulation and Training and two other IST faculty members. A lengthy investigation found they were involved in helping a student obtain a doctoral degree in exchange for grant funding and with inappropriate assistance from faculty advisors and others. The university also is starting the process of revoking that doctoral degree as a result of the investigation’s findings.

To be clear, this disturbing incident involves a small number of people who intentionally violated our policies and breached our trust. It does not reflect the thousands of students, faculty and staff who have built UCF’s reputation for academic excellence.

We cannot allow the actions of a few to hurt our students’ honest efforts to pursue life-changing degrees or undermine the work of IST faculty and staff whose research helps drive one of our region’s signature industries.

To ensure there are no other conflicts of interest in our modeling and simulation degrees, we are reviewing graduate degrees awarded in that program and providing additional education and training on conflicts of interest to IST faculty and staff.

We are also addressing other concerns raised in the investigation, including strengthening information security. While the investigation found no cybersecurity breaches, a university-wide group is working to ensure we are following new federal guidelines for protecting information systems.

New Leadership

Beginning today, retired U.S. Navy Capt. Wes Naylor will serve as interim director of IST, and we will immediately begin a national search for a new director.

Naylor has served as adjunct faculty at UCF and is a former commanding officer of the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division and Naval Support Activity Orlando, longtime partners with IST and its researchers.

He earned a doctorate in business administration from Rollins College and is known to many in the Central Florida community for his work in simulation and the science of learning. Naylor also has held executive leadership roles at Rollins College and served on multiple civic boards, including the Orlando Economic Partnership, Orlando Science Center and the National Defense Industrial Association.

Doing the Right Thing

The changes we are making now will make us a stronger organization going forward. I am committed to fixing anything that could hurt our university community or our credibility.

If you ever have concerns about unethical or potentially unethical behavior, I encourage you to report to one of the many options available to you, including speaking with your supervisor or contacting the UCF IntegrityLine, a secure reporting system administered by an independent third party, at www.ucfintegrityline.com or by calling 1-855-877-6049.

When faced with difficult situations, we must never shy away from doing the right thing.

Written by: Interim President Thad Seymour Jr.

Jan. 27, 2020