Investigation finds no evidence of ethical violations in ASU economics department

Former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor said she found no proof to support allegations of misconduct

An independent investigation released Tuesday into accusations of wrongdoings by ASU's economics department found no evidence of ethical violations.

The investigation came after former clinical assistant professor Brian Goegan sent an email blast to students and created a Google website in which he accused the the University of forcing professors to fail a certain percentage of students and of profiting off a software called MindTap which students are required to buy in order to turn in homework.

However the investigation, conducted by former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor, “found no evidence to support the allegation that ASU agreed to use Cengage products for developing and distributing the adaptive learning course for economics in exchange for a large grant from Cengage.”

Related: ASU announces external investigation into economics department practices

The investigation also found no evidence that Cengage has proposed or made such a grant, or that the University required professors to fail 30% of students enrolled in macro and microeconomics.

McGregor's review did confirm that students are required to pay for MindTap, but that “the general view among professors who teach ECN 211 and 212 is that the Cengage products are useful and that the features of MindTap cannot be duplicated by using Blackboard or Canvas.” 

“Although Professor Goegan and other educators may disagree about the requiring the use of these products, I found no ethical issue,” McGregor wrote. 

The investigation also verified that ASU retains a portion of the fee for online courses, but that the retaining of the fee is “consistent with the terms of governing contracts and made in recognition of ASU’s contribution to course content and development.” 

A University spokesperson said ASU will not be commenting on the investigation and will instead let McGregors’ investigation “speak for itself.” 

Goegan said he was disappointed by the result of the investigation and wishes the report went further. He disagrees with the findings that the features MindTap offers cannnot be duplicated by Blackboard or Canvas and said that it is unethical to force students to use the service. 

"I can definitely understand and believe that perhaps I was mistaken in the existence of a grant,” Geogan told The State Press. “But I don't think that this report has adequately addressed the issue of whether or not the requirement of MindTap was imposed in order to incentivize this relationship with Cengage."

Related: ASU denies viral claims that it purposely failed economics students

Goegan said his colleagues “don’t seem to have a memory” of the time he and other professors were told to fail about one third of ECN 211 and 212 students, and reiterated that he was told directly to fail more students. 

"My colleagues seem to remember that as merely showing the historical distribution, but that is not what was said in the meeting," he said. "I think if pressed, if asked for more specifics, they would not contradict me as Justice McGregor has suggested."

Editor's Note: This is a breaking story and will be updated as more information becomes available.


Reach the reporter at ajhowar6@asu.edu and follow @andrew_howard4 on Twitter.

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