For the second time in two years, the Faculty Senate at LeMoyne-Owen College has issued a vote of no confidence for LOC President Andrea Miller – this time on allegations that she presented the words of televangelist Joel Osteen as her own during the college’s recent convocation.
By definition, that’s plagiarism. And in academic circles, it’s among the highest violations a student can make – let alone a faculty member or college administrator.
And while Miller confirms that she used Osteen’s language in her address, she chalks it up to human error, not worthy of all the fuss the incident has generated.
“A few members of the LeMoyne-Owen College faculty are calling for my resignation because they feel I plagiarized a sermon by Joel Osteen,” Miller said in a statement, her only comments on the matter.
“The fact is I did use material from Joel Osteen within the boundaries of fair use, which means I may not photocopy or print text for distribution,” the statement continued. “I quoted from the “I’m Still Standing” chapter of his book ‘Blessed in Darkness.’”
LocalMemphis.com reported that a sermon Osteen delivered in 2017 reads as follows: “What’s interesting is the same storm came to both people, the just and the unjust. If the story ended right there, you would think, doesn’t make a difference to honor God.”
From Miller’s October 2018 address: “What’s interesting is that the same storm came to both people: the just and the unjust. If the story stopped there, you’d think that it doesn’t make a difference whether we honor God.”
In her statement, Miller defended her use of Osteen’s remarks, also implying that it was an “oversight” not to credit the pastor.
“I wanted to offer a message of motivation and encouragement to our students, and offer reflection on what it means to endure the challenges that are a part of our transformational work at the college,” the statement reads.
“In my notes, I have a statement giving credit to Pastor Osteen that I may have overlooked while delivering the speech,” the statement continued. “In that instance, it would be an oversight and does not constitute a serious breach of academic standards that would rise to level of review for faculty or students.”
Although The New Tri-State Defender was unable to reach Dr. Michael Robinson, president of the LOC Faculty Senate for direct comment, he’s expressed his displeasure with other media outlets.
“The president is the highest academic and administrative officer at the college and she sets the standard for ethical and moral conduct at the college as well,” Robinson told WREG Newschannel 3.
“These are some serious allegations, because it impacts the credibility of the college going forward,” he continued. “With the president being the face of the organization, that’s a serious allegation and a serious infraction.”
Robinson was at the forefront of earlier efforts to oust Miller, who became the college’s first woman president in 2015. In March 2017, the faculty senate voted “no confidence” on Miller’s performance, citing concerns about issues “regarding violations of shared governance, nepotism, unfair hiring and firing practices and ineffective management styles.”
Miller has defended her tenure as president, saying that LeMoyne-Owen must evolve its curriculum to properly serve students in a changing world and job market. And in both instances, she believes criticism of her leadership stems mostly from resistance to what she believes is necessary change.
“It is no secret that organizational changes, the pace of change and our new direction at LeMoyne-Owen College has caused consternation among some faculty members,” Miller’s statement reads. “Still, I am committed to ensuring this 156-year-old institution achieves new heights in outcomes for the students and families we serve.”
The LOC Board of Trustees is the body that would decide whether to keep or release Miller. Board Chairman J.W. Gibson II could not be reached at press time for comment.