UNB releases US politician’s controversial doctoral thesis after months of rejection
After insisting for months that it was not possible – or even legal – to share a doctoral thesis decried by controversial American politician Doug Mastriano, the University of New Brunswick has suddenly made the document public. in August, in a move that appeared to undermine the excuses used to retain him. secrecy in the first place.
Mastriano, the Republican candidate running for governor of Pennsylvania, rose to prominence there as an early opponent of mask and vaccine mandates to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and as an ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump.
A state senator, author and retired army colonel, Mastriano earned a doctorate in history from UNB in 2013, near the end of his military career.
Many attempts to access the thesis written by Mastriano to obtain the doctorate have, however, been rejected in the past two years.
“The choice of embargo on a thesis is at the discretion of the author, not the institution,” UNB’s Heather Campbell wrote in May, while rejecting a CBC request to access the thesis. by Mastriano.
She said an author’s reasons for not wanting their work shared “are not examined” and an embargo could last indefinitely under university rules.
“It’s four years by default, but an author can request an extension,” she wrote.
This is contrary to the policy of many North American universities, which view the scholarship as a public good to be shared, except in rare circumstances.
For example, York University in Toronto states on its website that its policy is to allow embargo on a thesis for a maximum of three years, and only when it meets certain conditions and the student’s supervisor agrees.
“As a publicly funded institution, York University has an obligation to ensure that the research produced by its graduate students is accessible to the public, including making available theses and dissertations successfully defended by the through York University Libraries and Library and Archives Canada. sets out university policy.
“They really didn’t divulge anything”
Nonetheless, UNB has used its more restrictive policy to deny at least four separate applications since 2020 to see the dissertation.
Chris Rodkey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania who is running to represent his local district in state elections this fall, made one such request.
Rodkey, who himself has a Ph.D., was surprised in November 2020 when he couldn’t find a record of Mastriano’s thesis in UNB’s library system.
This changed to shock when UNB responded to an official written request for information by refusing to release even the title of Mastriano’s dissertation.
“Because this request requests personal educational background information from a third party, we are obligated to protect the privacy of said individual,” UNB’s Sarah DeVarenne wrote in a letter responding to Rodkey’s request.
“They didn’t confirm or deny anything, and they really didn’t divulge anything,” Rodkey said in an interview this week.
“I thought it was strange that they didn’t comment or give me any information.”
Mastriano led hearings in Pennsylvania in November 2020 that gave Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani a forum to allege widespread fraud during Joe Biden’s election victory in that state. He also attended the pro-Trump rally in Washington DC on January 6, 2021 which turned into a deadly riot.
“The only guy who supported election integrity and supported me from the start is Doug Mastriano,” read an endorsement of Donald Trump on Mastriano’s social media platforms.
CBC News received no response to Mastriano’s comment campaign. Mastriano banned journalists from attending his events, attract national media attention in the United States because of that.
The doctorate was used to counter criticism
Mastriano cites the UNB doctorate in his campaign materials, and the thesis has been used to counter criticism of some of his controversial statements and actions that emerged during the campaign, such as an old photo showing him at an event disguised as a Confederate soldier.
“Media MELT DOWN Mastriano has apparently posed as a historic Civil War figure,” campaign legal counsel Jenna Ellis tweeted in response to the controversy. “He has a doctorate in HISTORY.”
MELT DOWN media that Mastriano apparently posed as a Civil War historical figure for a photo. And? He has a doctorate in HISTORY. The left wants to erase history. @dougmastriano wants us to learn from it. I invite @Reuters touring Gettysburg with Doug. You will learn a lot!
As Mastriano’s profile grew, various media outlets and other parties attempted to gain access to his heavily criticized thesis on World War I hero Sgt. Alvin C. York, but UNB insisted its policies and privacy laws prohibit it
In addition to Rodkey and the CBC, UNB also rejected dissertation applications for Mastriano from the Associated Press and University of Oklahoma graduate student James Gregory, who has become an outspoken critic of errors in Mastriano’s historical research.
“I don’t care about Mastriano’s politics. I live in Oklahoma,” Gregory said in an interview.
“It had nothing to do with politics. It was simply due diligence in the realm of the historian.”
List of errors submitted to the university
UNB told Gregory in 2021 that Mastriano’s thesis on Sgt. York was widely reprinted as a commercially available book in 2014. Based on this information, Gregory gave the university a list of errors to check in Mastriano’s thesis.
I find it suspicious to say the least that they even allow this.– Graduate student James Gregory
The university still did not allow him to view the document but launched a review that led to 21 revisions of Mastriano’s original thesis which were attached in a “corrigendum” in June 2021.
This was not publicly known at the time, however, due to the ongoing embargo on work imposed by the university.
Gregory wonders if UNB kept Mastriano’s thesis suppressed to protect his privacy rights or to save himself embarrassment over mistakes he failed to catch and then rewarded with a diploma .
“They were going to bury it again under embargo where no one could verify it,” Gregory said, describing the revisions that were made and then also embargoed.
“I find it suspicious, to say the least, that they even allow this.”
Further questions about whether Mastriano’s privacy rights were really behind the embargo resurfaced in August when the university suddenly reversed course and released the dissertation after nine years of secrecy. apparently without Mastriano’s permission.
The Associated Press reported last week that Drew Rendall, Dean of Graduate Studies at UNB, informed Mastriano that the embargo was lifted and did so without ever hearing from the candidate.
Rendall did not respond to an interview request on whether his end of the embargo suggests UNB’s earlier assertions — that the decision was Mastriano’s alone — were false.
In an unsigned statement UNB released on Friday, the school said it “recently” learned that an embargo on doctoral dissertations it had not identified had been extended well beyond its maximum. normal four years.
“We recognize that the extended embargo was contrary to the practice and academic principle of scholarly activity and did not comply with UNB regulations and guidelines for the preparation and submission of theses, dissertations and research reports. graduate students,” the statement read.
The university has not responded to false statements made by its representatives over the past two years, saying that the prolonged embargo was normal and that it was up to Mastriano alone to end it.
Gregory said that based on the now public document and the 21 revisions made following his 2021 complaint about alleged errors in the work, he is preparing a second, larger challenge for the search for Mastriano and the attribution by the ‘UNB of a doctorate based on it.