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Grand Forks Herald, March 8, 1996


Randy Bradbury, Herald Staff Writer

A lawsuit filed after portions of a UND graduate student's doctoral research was taken from her office and used without her permission has been settled out of court.

Details of the settlement were not available, and a second lawsuit related to the same incident still is pending in state court in Bismarck.

The lawsuit that was settled was filed by Joyce Burr against UND professor Dr. Richard Landry. The second lawsuit is against Dr. Donald Lemon, a UND professor of education and Burr's former doctoral thesis adviser, and Cheryl Kulas, an employee of the Department of Public Instruction in Bismarck.

The two suits were filed by Burr after she discovered that material she had compiled for a doctorate in education had been removed from her locked office and used both in a report authored by Landry and in a master's thesis written by Kulas for the University of Arizona.

Taken during illness

The incident occurred in the spring of 1989, while Burr was seriously ill with kidney failure. She subsequently was on kidney dialysis for several years before undergoing a successful kidney transplant.

Burr says -- and court documents appear to support -- that she never was contacted to ask her permission to use the material or even to inform her that the material was being used. She didn't find out that it had been used until nearly a year later, when she saw a copy of Landry's report, which had a title that was very similar to the title of Burr's dissertation.

Depositions by Landry, Kulas and others, filed in the court cases, tell the following story:

Burr was a student at UND in the late 1980s who had co-authored several reports with Landry and taken a couple of classes from him. Her doctoral research was to measure the effectiveness of a law requiring that elementary and high school teachers take a certain amount of Indian studies classes before they can be certified to teach in North Dakota.

She had completed a good portion of her research and hoped to graduate in spring 1989 before she became ill. While Burr was in the hospital in the Twin Cities, the Department of Public Instruction decided, in response to a request from North Dakota Indian educators, to undertake a study very similar to Burr's research. Burr claims that idea, too, originally grew out of her research.

Kulas was in charge of the DPI study. Landry told Kulas she should use some of Burr's research -- specifically, a set of survey questions -- and asked a departmental secretary to enter Burr's locked office, find the survey and make a copy.

The secretary did just that, and Landry gave the survey questions to Kulas.

Kulas then used a number of the questions nearly word-for-word as part of a longer survey of North Dakota teachers. The results were forwarded to Landry, who wrote a report that listed only himself as the author. Later, Kulas' name was added to the report.

Work acknowledged

Much later, after Burr raised a complaint, her work was acknowledged, but Landry said that was only a courtesy.

Meanwhile, Kulas used the same research as the basis for her master's thesis. Her master's degree was awarded by the University of Arizona in December 1989. Compounding difficulties for Burr, Kulas copyrighted her thesis, meaning that if Burr had decided to use her own materials, she would have been forced to give Kulas credit.

In the intervening years, UND apparently has taken no action nor conducted any kind of investigation into Burr's allegations. Burr said she was discouraged by university officials from filing a formal grievance while lawsuits were pending, but she discovered last year that a lawsuit should not stop a grievance from going forward and, in September 1995, she filed a formal grievance with the UND Graduate School.

As of Wednesday, she had heard no reply.

Marlene Strathe, UND vice president for academic affairs, said she knew little of the situation and said the issue would be handled by Graduate School Dean Harvey Knull.

Knull said Thursday that, as far as he knows, no action has been taken on Burr's grievance.

Neither Landry nor his lawyer returned phone calls asking for comment.

Burr now is superintendent of the Circle of Nations School, formerly the Wahpeton Indian School, the same school she attended as a girl. She has not been able to complete her doctoral dissertation.