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Professors Leaving College Targeted By Hoax

May 25, 1987

WALLA WALLA, Wash. (AP) _ Whitman College’s philosophy department, stung by a fraudulent award earlier this year, is losing its chairman and two other professors, but they say their departure has nothing to do with the hoax.

The departing professors are chairman John Stuhr, one of the most published faculty members at the college, Patricia Burton and Carolyn Hartz.

The hoax was a letter supposedly written by the American Philosophical Association giving the philosophy department its execellence award, ″the highest professional honor which an undergraduate department may receive.″

The association does not give out such an award, but when the letter arrived late last year, it prompted a laudatory article in Whitman’s alumni magazine.

″We didn’t have too much rejoicing when we thought it was real and we didn’t have too much sorrow when we found out it was false,″ Stuhr said.

Stuhr and Ms. Burton said they were planning to leave before news of the hoax came out, the Spokane Spokesman-Review newspaper reported Saturday.

He will become a philosophy professor and director of the University of Oregon’s Center for the Humanities. Ms. Burton was on a one-year appointment and Ms. Hartz is leaving to teach at the College of Wooster at Wooster, Ohio.

After a story about the hoax appeared Feb. 1 in the Spokesman-Review, Stuhr said a Walla Walla psychologist called to say a patient, a former Whitman student, had admitted perpetrating the hoax.

Stuhr has denied any involvement with the letter and has refused to identify the former student.

A college committee investigating the letter announced last week it couldn’t figure out who was behind the hoax.

The committee was created largely because of dissatisfaction with Stuhr’s explanation, and feelings among some faculty members that the hoax was a ploy to gain more prestige and money for the philosophy department.

″I think probably there was a bad environment for a while and certainly on the part of some faculty members there continues to be,″ said Ed Foster, Whitman’s dean of faculty.

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