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Attorney: Monk is a scapegoat in FSU academic scandal

The attorney for Brenda Monk, one of the former Florida State employees implicated in an academic misconduct scandal that rocked the athletic department, insists his client is essentially a scapegoat.

In a written response to the NCAA, attorney Brant Hargrove called the allegations reported by the school against Monk "not only self-serving" but "not true," documents obtained by the St. Petersburg Times show.

FSU officials reported that 61 student-athletes in 10 sports were involved to varying degrees in the misconduct, most related to receiving answers to tests in one online music course.

The school received its Notice of Allegations from the NCAA enforcement staff in June, sent off its response acknowledging the three major violations cited and is scheduled to appear before the Division I Committee on Infractions on Oct. 18 in Indianapolis.

Monk, who holds a doctorate and was employed as a learning specialist and assistant director of Athletic Academic Support Services for more than six years before resigning in July 2007, is said to have improperly assisted student-athletes in several ways.

In Hargrove's 13-page response (and more than 100 additional pages in supporting exhibits), which he also sent to FSU and was obtained by the Times through a public records request, he disagrees with all of them.

• In regard to typing and editing term papers, he wrote that "Dr. Monk used a word processor instead of a pen or pencil to aid in the development of a student's outline and edited their thoughts so that a coherent outline could then be explained and written by the student." That, he argued, is an accepted accommodation for a student with learning disabilities.

At times, Monk had as many as 60 such students as the lone learning specialist on staff. FSU now has two learning specialists.

• A second allegation was that Monk provided answers for an online test to one student-athlete to enter on behalf of another student-athlete. Hargrove wrote that Monk believed a student-athlete had completed a test sheet and left it on her desk without entering the answers and that's when she asked another student-athlete to input the answers.

"Dr. Monk did not commit a fraudulent act. She did, however, make a mistake," Hargrove said. "There was no motive for Dr. Monk to provide correct answers for (redacted name) and, if there were a nefarious plan being perpetrated by Dr. Monk on (redacted name's) behalf, she would have simply inputted correct answers for him and no one would have been the wiser."

• Lastly, Hargrove wrote that Monk putting together a study guide, which contained class notes as well as tests (tests the school admits the professor didn't change), is routine for many classes. He points out he used one to study for the Bar Exam. He and FSU do agree on a point that there was confusion when tests for the class were open and closed-book.

"At no time did Dr. Monk provide any student with answers to test questions during an examination," he wrote.

Monk and Hargrove are expected to attend that infractions hearing next month. An unnamed tutor, then a graduate student who was said to have helped 54 student-athletes with the online tests, isn't expected to go. Hillard Goldsmith III, alleged to have told the tutor to give out answers, has refused to cooperate with both FSU's and the NCAA's investigations. FSU, which has imposed several punitive sanctions, including scholarship reductions, should learn what, if any, additional penalties it faces from the NCAA by early December.

Attorney: Monk is a scapegoat in FSU academic scandal 09/26/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 29, 2008 3:48pm]
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