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Former FSU employee Brenda Monk says she's not dishonest

Brenda Monk, one of the former Florida State employees alleged to be at the center of an academic misconduct scandal, is paying her own way to Indianapolis to be a part of the school's hearing before the Division I Committee on Infractions.

Not that Monk, who resigned, is expecting to be exonerated.

"I'm past that. I'm past needing the vindication," she said during a 90-minute telephone interview with the St. Petersburg Times on Monday, her first public comments about the case, in which she didn't dodge a single question or stumble through any response.

She does want to tell folks how she did her job.

And what she didn't do.

FSU and/or the NCAA have said that Monk, who earned a Ph.D. in education administration from Mississippi State in 1993 and was hired as a learning specialist by FSU in January 2001, former academic adviser Hillard Goldsmith III and a former tutor provided "improper academic assistance and arranged for fraudulent academic credit" for 61 student-athletes in 10 sports.

All three former Athletics Academic Support Service employees were invited to attend Saturday's hearing, but Monk likely will be the lone one to make the trip, in part to tell the committee that she never helped any of her students cheat.

"We want them to hear the truth, the whole truth and not just pieces of it," said her attorney, Brant Hargrove, who previously submitted a written response to the allegations made against his client that the Times obtained through a public records request.

Monk also said she hopes her appearance might call attention to the increasing number of learning-disabled students entering college and the need for the NCAA to formalize what can and can't be done to help them succeed.

She has been alleged to have typed and edited papers for five student-athletes, which NCAA rules state is an "extra benefit." She says she didn't type papers but used a computer to help them with outlines.

"I worked 16 hours a day," said Monk, 59, who is now a principal at the school at the Lake City Correctional Facility. "If I wanted to be dishonest and type the papers for the students, I probably could have had an eight-hour work day like everybody else in the office. But I wanted the students to learn. I am not a dishonest person, and I want the NCAA to know I'm not a dishonest person."

The school also has alleged that she instructed one student-athlete to enter answers to an online test on behalf of another student-athlete, the situation that led to her being put on administrative leave in April 2007 (and "thrown out of my office") and her resignation in July. She said that it was a lapse in judgment — not fraud — and that fatigue was a factor.

"I never want to use an excuse, but I was tired," she said. "And I made a mistake. … I never got a chance to talk about it and I would have liked to have had that. … One mistake should not have ended my career at Florida State."

Lastly, the school has said Monk was guilty of another mistake, providing at least six student-athletes with answers for online quizzes in an online music course, either directly or with a study guide she had compiled. FSU has admitted that there was confusion about when the class allowed open-book quizzes.

She has denied giving out answers. The unnamed tutor, however, told investigators that he saw Monk helping student-athletes on quizzes and followed her lead. He's said to have helped 54 student-athletes; he also said Goldsmith told him to provide test answers.

"It was unfortunate that the music class was not monitored the way it should have been monitored and that the tutor was not monitored the way he should have monitored," Monk said, echoing FSU's reports, including that no coaches were involved. "I have to take part of the blame because I was part of the staff. … But when you read it, it's as if I orchestrated the whole thing."

Monk, the first person FSU identified in the scandal, can't help but feel like a scapegoat.

"It's been a growing experience for me, just having to go through some of the things I've had to go through," she said. "I've been hurt. I've suffered professionally as a result of this. … But I want them to know the job that I did. … There's not one student you could ever talk to who could tell you I helped them cheat through the university. It was a lot of hard work and a lot of hours for some of those students to be successful."

Former FSU employee Brenda Monk says she's not dishonest 10/13/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 7:29am]
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