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UNH professor tampers with evaluations, faces termination

Staff Writer

Published: Friday, April 26, 2013

Updated: Friday, April 26, 2013 02:04


A UNH professor is facing termination after he tampered with a fellow professor’s student evaluations.

In an email sent to colleagues by UNH professor Marco Dorfsman on April 19, 2013, Dorfsman admitted to altering an unnamed colleague’s student evaluations in December of 2012.  
Dorfsman is an associate professor of Spanish in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures and was chairperson of the department at the time of the alleged tampering.

“Last December I had what I can only say was an emotional breakdown and I did a terrible thing,” Dorfsman said in the email.

According to the email, a tragedy played a part in Dorfsman’s actions.

“There were mitigating factors related to a personal tragedy in my family and other personal and professional pressures that created a perfect storm in which I acted out from a very dark and vulnerable place,” the email said.  
Student evaluations, which are filled out by students every semester, are used by UNH in making tenure, promotion and salary decisions for instructors. UNH policy states that instructors and the department chairperson are not to review evaluations before they are processed.

The university declined to comment on the allegations against Dorfsman.

“We are aware of the allegations against Professor Dorfsman and are responding,” Erica Mantz, director of UNH Media Relations, said. “At this point we can not comment further because this is a personnel matter.”

The email stated that Dorfsman apologized to Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Kenneth Fuld, the rest of his colleagues and the unnamed colleague as well as stepped down as chair of languages, literatures and cultures.

“We were able to recover the data and limit the damage,” the email said.

The current interim-chair of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Lina Lee, was also unavailable for comment since the case is currently under the investigation the department.

Dorfsman himself was not available for comment on the allegations presented against him.

“There is an ongoing investigation and it would be inappropriate for me to say anything at this time,” Dorfsman said.  
According to the email, out-going UNH Provost John Aber was the one who sent the case to the Professional Standards Committee, which is a part of Faculty Senate. The email said Aber had given the opinion that Dorfsman should be dismissed for moral turpitude.

When reached for comment, Assistant of the Provost Helen Brewster declined to comment. According to Brewster, the reason for this was because the allegations and investigation were a personnel matter.

From the email, Dorfsman believes his actions are not grounds for termination.

“I do not believe my act represents my character, nor my value and commitment to this institution,” the email said.

The AAUP-UNH, the union for tenure track faculty at UNH, released a statement on the investigation.

“It is vital that I withhold comment until the cases have proceeded through the Professional Standards Committee so as not to prejudice the proceedings,” Deanna Wood, grievance officer for AAUP-UNH, said.

The email said the Professional Standards Committee has been deliberating this week and over the past weekend regarding Dorsfman. When asked for a comment on the investigation, Todd DeMitchell, chair of the Professional Standards Committee, declined comment.

“Any information that I may have is confidential and cannot be shared,” DeMitchell said.

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UNH '67
Thu May 2 2013 20:35
The real problem here is the idiotic notion that students should formally review their teachers. The use of these reviews to determine tenure, etc., only raises the idiocy a notch to the level of pure lunacy. Our universities are a mess across the board and it's practices like this that have put them there. Students should realize that ultimately they are the losers and demand that this and many other fuzzy-minded policies haunting us from the 1960s be reversed.

I went to UNH many decades ago. Given the opportunity to do so again now, I would pass and spend my money on something better. Things on campus are decidedly worse now than back when I was young.

Tue Apr 30 2013 10:58
Prof Dorfsman is trying to make himself out to be the victim here. Please remember that he is NOT the victim. He is the aggressor. He was the person with authority and the victim was most likely an adjunct whose professional reputation and career would have been damaged by bad evaluations.

This email sent out by Prof Dorfsman is just damage control on his part and I doubt he would have "confessed" if someone hadn't found out.

Mon Apr 29 2013 22:03
I hope all Dorfsman's current students 1) cheat on their final exams and then 2) apologize profusely, citing vague psychological stresses that 'made them do it'. Then they of course should get full credit for the exam, because, after all, they apologized! Meanwhile, any previous students should protest any low grades they got due to missing work or any other reason. I'm sure they apologized too! The guy is ethically deficient. It doesn't matter whether he cheated in somebody's favor or against somebody. As department chair, he is held to a standard of ethical verity which he has miserably failed.
Mon Apr 29 2013 21:14
Many fail to see that when a person sends an email to confess an act, his actions are no longer allegations but facts. Secondly, whether the professor tampered with the evaluations to improve them or lower them, it is irrelevant. He still did something he was not supposed to do. Chairs are not supposed to see the evaluations of anyone before they are processed by the evaluation center. To my knowledge those evaluations are not delivered by students to the chair's office, but to the department office. Prof. Dorfsman had to premeditate his actions, no mistakes there. If "Everyone makes mistakes. There is no need to overly punish or condemn", then the university should get rid of its academic honesty policy. Students are young and as such they make mistakes so they should not be expelled or punished for breaking the rules. It is also disgusting that some people always compare these serious acts as "momentary breakdown" or 'depression". There are people who suffer from serious mental illness issues and go to work every day and do not try to damage other people. They struggle every day and do not use their illness to shield their actions. Shame on you for saying that!
Mon Apr 29 2013 19:48
Any grown adult who is under severe stress, such as Professor Dorfsman claims to have been, should know enough to seek professional psychiatric help to deal with the situation before engaging in impulsive actions that are detrimental to others. I don't buy stories that claim an individual was suddenly overcome by evil and uncharacteristic impulses without any prior warning signs.
Mon Apr 29 2013 16:54
Marco Dorfsman is an outstanding educator and person who had momentary breakdown due to an unrelated tragedy, and acted in a manner that is not a reflection of his character. Those who have chosen to make broad judgements and hateful comments without any knowledge of the situation or those involved are seriously misguided in their hate, and speak out of vain ignorance. Everyone makes mistakes. There is no need to overly punish or condemn. Marco is a brilliant professor, caring mentor, and an honest person. Before you call for punishment in a case of which you have no knowledge, please consider looking into the absolutely outstanding history and reputation of the man you mean to condemn. There must be a punishment of some kind, but termination would be a irreplaceable loss to the UNH community.
Mon Apr 29 2013 12:42
I was wondering whether the tampering of evaluations were up or down. Up would mean he was trying to give an unfair advantage to someone, down would mean he was trying to adversely manipulate someones career. It is my understanding that student evaluations can be used when deciding merit pay and contracts. If it was downward it becomes even more serious. It becomes a form of cheating. What happens when a student gets caught cheating? Some Universities actually expel students. Professors should be held to a higher standard than students. It will be interesting to see how the University handles this.
Mon Apr 29 2013 11:43
To all those complaining about why the university has not yet acted on this information: please remember that the university policy is to have some sort of objective fact finding procedure and just deliberation before taking action on these types of issues. Remember that the university follows the same policy in regard to acting on complaints against students. It is called due process and it is a basic principle of law in this country.
To those complaining primarily of the damage that this action must have done to a colleague: one, do you know that the alleged change to the evaluations was to make them more critical? No, you don't. It doesn't say anywhere in the article what changes were made. Two: would you be this critical of this behavior if it was clear that the changes were made in the favor of the instructor (e.g. manipulating towards a higher rating)? I would certainly hope so, but it is difficult to tell from these reactions.
Mon Apr 29 2013 11:38
This is a very big part of the climate and culture among faculty and many departments at UNH. This does not surprise me at all, because bullying and mobbing appear to be essential to the UNH fabric. Recent attempts by many to define bullying and mobbing in all levels of UNH interactions (faculty, staff, student) have been thwarted or "handled." Isn't it time we had a strong anti-bullying and anti-mobbing policy at UNH??
Sun Apr 28 2013 22:06
Being in higher education for the past decade I have seen the damage student evaluations can do. I also have seen some really pathetic instructors that give out high grades continuously get great evaluations. If you consider the weight student evaluations are given, some teachers that want to keep their jobs try to manipulate the situation. I think generally the average student has no knowledge on what a good instructor is in the first place.
Sun Apr 28 2013 17:08
This is merely the most obvious way that a poor instructor has meddled with evaluations. They obviously MUST carry some weight, otherwise, we would not see this behavior. My all time favorite was the professor that was blatantly political all semester, and then waited until 2 minutes AFTER class was over to hand out evals (when all but one person had a class to be at that was a good 10 minute walk away).
Sun Apr 28 2013 07:18
Let's remember that we have only heard HIS side of the story. The victim has not been interviewed by TNH yet? Why not? Dorfsman was a person in a position of authority over people's careers. How dare he steal students' voices, to try to damage his victim's reputation? Students have little enough say over how things go at UNH...and yet he tried to corrupt student evals to attack a colleague. Outrageous!
Beverly James
Sun Apr 28 2013 02:36
As a retired professor, I believe the student evaluation system needs to be overhauled. It is anonymous, and students take advantage of this to write extremely hurtful, often obscene, comments that often have nothing to do with the instructor's professional abilities. In the so-called real world, the employee's evaluations would not be based on the anonymous comments of 18-year-olds, but on the boss's observations. Professor Dorfman is a top-notch instructor who should not be judged in the absence of all the facts.
Sat Apr 27 2013 20:31
It is appalling that some people and the administration fail to see how ethically wrong all of this is. it is disgraceful that someone would say:"We were able to recover the data and limit the damage". The fact that the fact that the data was recovered is irrelevant. It is is the principle. UNH is or is not an an educational institution? Professors talk about fostering academic honesty in students and then one faculty member does exactly the opposite, hoping to get away with it. Clearly, this act was done to deliberately damage another colleague, who must be a lecturer or not tenured, otherwise evaluations will not have any weight. Universities are responsible for teaching ethical behaviors in students and this act is in opposition to UNH academic ethics. He knew very well what he was doing and how to do it; this was not a momentary breakdown.
Sat Apr 27 2013 16:10
Why are these being reported as allegations when it is a fact that Professor Dorfsman sent an email apologizing for his actions?
People generally don't apologize for things they have "allegedly" done.
Sat Apr 27 2013 09:17
What this man did amounts to professional assault on a colleague's reputation. Not only did he tamper with official documents, he could have ruined the career of the victim. He should be terminated. Period.
Sat Apr 27 2013 00:15
Terminate him... in the "real world" ... someone who commits an act of fraud such as this professor did would be terminated.
Sat Apr 27 2013 00:04
I have tenure, I support the tenure system, and I think he should be stripped of tenure and work on a contract basis. It's unclear whether he admitted to doing it only because he got caught, or confessed on his own. But this is such a basic violation of academic ethics that he should not be endowed with the rights and responsibilities of tenure.
Fri Apr 26 2013 14:51
We all make mistakes. He admitting his mistake and apologizing. He should not be terminated. We all deserve second chances. There must be a consequence, but termination is not one of them.

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