Magazine article ASEE Prism

Conflict-of-Interest Flap Hits Accrediting Agency

Magazine article ASEE Prism

Conflict-of-Interest Flap Hits Accrediting Agency

Article excerpt

After being hit by a conflict-of-interest allegation last November, the Accrediting Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) was feeling exonerated in mid-December. An external investigation the organization had authorized found no evidence to substantiate the charge.

But ABET, the accrediting agency for college-level engineering programs, was still awaiting the reaction of the U.S. Department of Education, and had submitted the external review to department officials. "We've never been involved in this kind of process before," explains ABET head George Peterson. While Peterson indicated that there was relief with the probe's findings, he was not surprised. "The facts speak for themselves," he says, and the report was an affirmation of ABET's longstanding procedures and policies.

Word of the potentially embarrassing charge was received at ABET's Baltimore office on November 7,2000, in a letter from the Department of Education. The department had received a written complaint from a retired University of Missouri computer-engineering professor alleging a conflict of interest in the school's hiring of a new chairman for its department of electrical engineering. The man hired last May was Lex A. Akers, who had been director of engineering at the University of Texas-San Antonio. The problem was that Akers was also a member of the accrediting team that visited the Missouri campus in December 1999 to conduct ABET's review of the school's college of engineering. It was also in December 1999 that the college created a search committee to fill the electrical engineering post. …

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