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Auburn professor in grading probe suspended with pay

AUBURN (AP) — The Au-burn University professor at the heart of an earlier probe into grading irregularities at the school has been suspended with pay after a new complaint was filed, university officials said.

The suspension of sociology professor Thomas Petee is effective immediatly, and he will not be teaching when the new semester begins in January, university spokeswoman Deedie Dowdle said Friday.

Petee resigned as interim head of the sociology department in August and James Witte stepped down as program chair of adult education after an internal investigation of apparent mishandling of directed reading or independent study classes.

Auburn President Ed Rich-ardson said the probe found that athletes were not steered to courses taught by Petee, who was accused by a colleague of helping football players stay eligible through easy, "directed-reading" work.

Petee, who has tenure at the school, continued teaching until classes ended Dec. 15 but was suspended afterward.

"Again, that's pending the outcome of this investigation for suspected grade changes that occurred separately and were not part of the findings of the initial report," Dowdle said.

Dowdle said the new probe began when officials received an anonymous complaint after the initial investigation was completed and the suspension is "effective until due process hearings" take place.

The New York Times has reported that at least one grade change at Auburn involved a student-athlete who was able to maintain eligibility when his grade in a directed-reading course was changed from incomplete to an "A" in 2003.

A phone message left on Petee's cell phone was not immediately returned Friday.

New guidelines were put in place after the initial investigation regarding directed reading courses. They limited access and required multilevel approval for granting such classes.

"The grade changes occurred between 2002-2004, and we have already corrected the process that allowed these changes to take place. Auburn has fully investigated the matter, and we will take the appropriate corrective steps in consultation with the Office of the Provost," Rich-ardson said in a recent interview with the Opelika-Auburn News. "These complaints go back two or three years. It didn't happen recently. If it had happened after we implemented our new policies, I'd have jumped through the ceiling."

Auburn has been in touch with officials from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and, because some of the students involved were athletes, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has also been contacted.

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Information from: Opelika-Auburn News

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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