Blandina Cárdenas, formerly UTSA’s dean of the college of education and human development (COEHD), has stepped down as president of the University of Texas-Pan American following allegations of plagiarism.
In a letter to colleagues and friends, Cardenas cited medical reasons for her Jan. 30 departure.
“I need to take greater care of this somewhat battered, mended heart,” Cárdenas wrote.
According to Nancy K. Martin, UTSA associate dean for undergraduate student success, “A number of faculty members (at UTSA) are concerned with Bambi’s (Cardenas) health,” Martin said.
Since October, Cárdenas has been under stress from allegations that she plagiarized parts of her 1974 doctoral dissertation in education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
At the time, an anonymous package containing Cárdenas’ dissertation and alleged examples of plagiarism was sent to UT officials and various news outlets. According to David Prior, UTPA executive vice chancellor, a UT investigation had begun but was halted because Cárdenas had resigned.
Last fall, in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News, Cárdenas denied plagiarizing her dissertation. Cárdenas was unavailable for comment.
Martin said Cárdenas is a wonderful person with a great gift for bringing people together, a skill that came in handy when Cárdenas helped build COEHD.
She served as dean from 2000-2004.
“She set the bar high, was a great leader and a lot of people respected her,” Martin said.
Martin went on to say that as a good leader, difficult decisions are made in the forms of reprimanding people or terminating employment.
“To me this looks vindictive, and it’s very upsetting to all of us,” Martin said.
In a UT System statement, H. Scott Caven, Jr. thanked Dr. Cárdenas for her service as president of UTPA.
“She has been an inspirational leader throughout her career in education and public service, and her commitment to higher education has been a tremendous asset to the local community and region,” Caven said.
According to the UT System, Charles A. Sorber, former president of UT Permian Basin and former interim president of UT Arlington, will serve as interim president as of Feb. 23. Paul Sale, UTPA’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, is acting as the campus’ chief administrative head until Feb. 23. The UT system Board of Regents is currently conducting a national search for a permanent replacement for Cárdenas.
To date, no investigation has been done to confirm or deny that Cárdenas’ dissertation was plagiarized. Cárdenas helped increase scholarship money for UTSA, and increased the passage rate of UTSA students taking the state teacher certification exams by 90 percent.
During Cárdenas’ term as UTPA president, there was a 58 percent increase in undergraduate degrees handed out than before she took office, and a 3 percent increase in sophomore retention rate. UTPA experienced an increase in financial aid from $84 million to $111 million.