UNLV students accused of forgery to receive degrees [FONT=verdana, arial]By K.C. HOWARD ©2006 REVIEW-JOURNAL . [FONT=verdana, arial]EXTRACTED FROM:. [FONT=verdana, arial]http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2006/Jun-13-Tue-2006/news/7880595.html. [FONT=verdana, arial] .The 10 UNLV dental school students who are alleged to have forged faculty signatures on university documents, including patient records, were each ordered to perform 1,500 hours of community service and will receive their degrees, higher education sources said. The certification of the students was criticized by some members of the local dental community, who said the students, part of the first graduating class of dentists, committed serious professional and ethical violations and are unfit to practice. Chancellor Jim Rogers said reports that students were caught using the computer password belonging to a part-time faculty member to sign off on patient treatment plans, diagnoses and other work concerned him. "If you cheat on something little, you sure as hell will cheat on something big. I'm concerned about that sort of mentality being involved in any professional school," Rogers said Friday. Students are required to have almost every aspect of patient health care approved by supervising faculty. The scandal became public last month after several anonymous sources with direct knowledge of the students' actions confirmed the university allowed the 10 students to walk in the May commencement ceremony. The sources asked to remain anonymous because they still worked or took classes at the school and feared retaliation from the administration. They said the students' diplomas were withheld while the university determined the appropriate action. An honors council, composed of students, faculty advisers and the associate dean of student affairs, investigated the matter. In May, they recommended to interim Dean Richard Carr the students redo a year of school. As an alternative, they suggested the students perform 1,000 hours of community service and pay a fine. Sources said Carr last week required the students to perform 1,500 hours of community service in oral health over a period of five years, which works out to be about 188 eight-hour work days. It was unclear how the university planned to enforce the punishment and whether transcripts would be put on hold until the hours were completed. Board of Regents Chairman Bret Whipple said he received a call from the father of one of the accused students who thought the punishment too extreme because his son had done all of his work but forged the approving signature. Whipple said he tried to persuade the family not to appeal the dean's decision, which he said was less extreme than what the honors council suggested. Whipple said he had received calls from dentists who thought the punishment was too lenient. "It's certainly not a positive," Whipple said of the students' acts. "But it's a positive in the fact that (school officials are) trying to address it. It's unfortunate that they are the first class; at the same time, it's just a small few." Officials at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, citing federal laws that protect students' identities, have declined to confirm or deny the allegations against the students. They denied a records request the Review-Journal filed to obtain the number of students involved, their names and the sanctions. Carr defended the first graduating class and its academic and professional standards. "I would put my reputation on the line for our graduates," he said. The UNLV School of Dental Medicine stands behind the dentists it certifies, and the public has no reason to be concerned about the quality of graduates, he said. The school is accredited by the American Dental Association. Carr said the school received commendation for its student affairs and admission practices and its information technology. He said matters of academic impropriety are handled internally by the school and do not affect accreditation status. Rogers said he is worried about the public's perception of the professional school and wants the system's chief attorney to look into whether appropriate actions were taken. He was unavailable to confirm Monday whether he had started an investigation. The dental school is expected to be a big part of Rogers' pet project, the proposed health sciences center. It needs millions of dollars in investments from state and private entities in the upcoming years, and Rogers said he wants to ensure the dental school is not graduating dentists who have questionable morals. "I'm not casting any stones or making any accusations, but I can tell you at the moment I'm not satisfied," Rogers said. The Southern Nevada Dental Society has received several calls from members concerned about whether professional standards and ethics were violated, said Robert Anderson, the society's executive director. No consensus existed among callers on how the school should handle the matter, he said. Members are cognizant that this is the first class and that there is a learning curve, he said. "We haven't had issues like this come up before," he said. Some members of the local dental community were more specific about what they believe the repercussions should be, arguing the 10 graduates are unethical and unfit to work on patients' mouths. "I would never be associated with this school," said Frank Drongowski, a maxillofacial surgeon who teaches part time at Louisiana State University and practices part time in Southern Nevada. He said he was shocked when he heard about students cheating from instructors at UNLV's dental school. He said the students should have had to repeat a year at least. Typically in dental school, "everything has to be off checked by an instructor, and that's why this issue is so serious," he said. "You have students who think they're above that and are essentially working without an instructor being involved." UNLV officials said 69 of the 71 students who made up the first graduating class took the licensing exam, the Western Regional Boards, this spring. Eighty-six percent passed, an exceptionally high number for a new school, Carr said. Sources said at least three of the 10 students were known to have passed the exam, and one of them has left the state to do a residency program. "Putting people's teeth in the hands of people who don't have the ability to do the right thing," said Woodrow Wagner, a retired dentist, who practiced in Las Vegas for 40 years, "I'm kind of ashamed."