A Florida university, discarding two earlier recommendations to do otherwise, has decided not to revoke the doctor of public administration degree awarded in 1976 to James W. Baldwin, director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights.
For more than a year, officials of Nova University, in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., has conducted several investigations to determine whether Baldwin had plagiarized portions of a job-related paper required as part of the doctoral program.
First the school's Washington lawyer and then a special faculty committee from the graduate program in public administration had recommended that Baldwin's degree be revoked because substantial portions of the course paper were plagiarized.
Baldwin made a final appeal to a university-wide faculty committee last year that it not revoke the degree. Yesterday, university president Abraham Fischler released a tense, two-sentence statement announcing that the degree would not be revoked.
"The total evidence gathered by Nova University during four hearings by two separate committees over a period of one year has determined that the confirmed errors of judgement on the part of Dr. Baldwin are not sufficient to warrant the drastic and irreversible action of revoking his degree," the statement read. "Therefore, Dr. Baldwin's degree will not be revoked."
Fishler's office failed yesterday to respond to a reporter's request for additional explanation. Laurance M. Hyde, dean of the university law school and chairman of the four-member committee that recommended the nonrevocation, said only that his panel felt "there wasn't sufficient evidence" to revoke the degree.
"I stand by the statement but I can't explain that statement," Hyde said in a telephone interview. "It's not my statement. It's the president's statement."
Baldwin said yesterday that he felt "great" about the decision and had been expecting it for some time. "I figured I hadn't done anything wrong. The charges and allegations were unfounded and the investigation has proven that."
Baldwin said he believes the errors in judgment referred to in Fishler's statement involve Baldwin's failure to indicate in a footnote that a private researcher to whom Baldwin had paid a fee had performed some of the analysis cited in the paper.
The controversy over Baldwin's degree began last February, with press reports that much of the material in Baldwin's paper had actually been written by Richard B. Zamoff, an associate professor of sociology at Trinity College. Baldwin paid Zamoff $375 to prepare a statistical analysis of the various ways the city's human rights office conciliates complaints of employment discrimination.
After adding an unnumbered summary page in front and a conclusion on the end of Zamoff's paper, Baldwin submitted it to the university as the first of two "job-related analytical reports" required for the degree. Zamoff's role in the preparation of the materials was not noted.
A year ago, Hershel Shanks, the Washington lawyer for Nova, said that 13 pages of the 15-page paper submitted by Baldwin were "virtually identical" to a text prepared by Zamoff. Largely on that basis -- and without interviewing Baldwin -- Shanks recommended that the degree be revoked.
In June a faculty committee from the public administration program concurred with that recommendation, but Baldwin appealed to the school-wide faculty committee, which has final say in recommendations that are subsequently made to the school's board of trustees.
A related allegation against Baldwin remains unresolved. The human rights director has acknowledged violating the city's conflict-of-interest code by using city stationery to recruit potential students for the university.
That acknowledgement was made by Baldwin in July but the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, which oversees the city's conflict-of-interest regulations, has still to act on Baldwin's admission.