A university disciplinary committee will decide whether a dean should be sanctioned over plagiarism.
Last week it was revealed that an article co-authored by the university’s Dean of the Faculty for Social Wellbeing Andrew Azzopardi was removed from an academic journal on the basis of plagiarism.
His fellow faculty colleague, Saviour Formosa, who is among the academics claiming their work was plagiarised, has called for Azzopardi's resignation.
Azzopardi has admitted mistakes were made in the paper, which listed him as its secondary author, but has rejected any allegations that this was the result of any wilful misdoing.
On Monday a spokesperson for the University of Malta confirmed that a procedure outlined in the academics’ collective agreement is reviewing the actions of Azzopardi and the paper's first-named author, research support officer Andrew Camilleri.
Rector Alfred Vella has referred the complaint to the Chairman of the University's Committee for Safeguarding of the Code of Professional Conduct, to establish if there is sufficient justification for the complaint.
If the committee decides that Azzopardi acted inappropriately he could face disciplinary sanctions.
These can range from a written reprimand to the suspension of the academic’s right to use research funds.
Other measures include the suspension of the right to sabbatical leave, or the suspension of bonuses, allowances or the progression of salary increments.
If the matter is deemed very serious by the committee then it can be raised before the University Council.
This body can decide to take more serious measures, such as suspending an academic from remunerated positions of responsibility assigned to him by the university or outright dismissal from university employment.
Meanwhile, the deputy dean of the faculty, Claire Azzopardi Lane, has written a letter in support of the dean and sent it to colleagues, asking them to endorse it.
While the letter acknowledges that the retraction is a “serious matter” and recommends that the university rector take “immediate necessary action to establish all the facts and delineate the appropriate way forward”, it also maintains that due consideration should be given to Azzopardi's work.
She highlights his efforts to promote the faculty and his positive impact on its growth, as well the nature of his deanship, characterised by open dialogue and support.
Resident academics, research officers and administrative staff within the faculty were sent the letter, suggesting they could endorse it in their personal capacity if they agree with it.
Some faculty staff members told Times of Malta they felt pressured to sign the email.