The head of a Spanish public university accused of serially plagiarizing other authors in his academic publications on Monday refused to testify before Madrid's regional parliament.
Fernando Suárez, president (rector) of the King Juan Carlos University (URJC), had been asked to testify by the Madrid Assembly's Committee on Education and Sport following revelations that many of his books and papers were riddled with material lifted straight from other academics.
"The rector declines the invitation to testify because he considers (the Assembly) is not the pertinent place to answer or clarify the information, insinuations and comments of a personal and academic nature that have recently appeared in media and social media," read a statement by Suarez's office.
The hearing had been requested by the progressive-populist political party Podemos ("We Can") and backed by the Socialist Party and center-right Ciudadanos ("Citizens").
The ruling conservative Popular Party (PP) opposed the hearing, arguing that it would constitute undue meddling in the university's internal affairs.
Eduardo Rubiño, Podemos' spokesman for higher education policy in the Assembly and a member of the committee, told EFE that his party profoundly regretted Suarez's refusal to testify.
"We believe it is a grave mistake that he refuses to answer questions," Rubiño said.
"The rector has decided that the Assembly is not the place to do so. We profoundly regret this," he added.
He said that Podemos considered that the people of Madrid deserved an explanation on the controversy by the highest authority of a public university that is financed by the region's taxpayers.
Rubiño added that his party believed that everybody should reach their own conclusions on the matter.
"Our public universities deserve to be defended and protected," he said.
In the past, other public university heads have testified before the Madrid Assembly to answer questions on diverse matters.
In Feb. 2004, the head of the Carlos III University, Gregorio Peces Barba, appeared before the regional parliament.
In April 2010, the head of the Complutense University of Madrid, Carlos Berzosa, did the same.
In Nov. 2013, the head of the Alcalá de Henares University, Fernando Galván, also testified.
The last university head to appear before Madrid's legislature was the current president of the Complutense, Carlos Andradas, who testified on Nov. 16 following a request by Podemos.
The plagiarism scandal at the URJC broke that same day, when renowned Spanish jurist and scholar Miguel Angel Aparicio, now retired, accused Suárez of extensively plagiarizing his work "The Status of Judicial Power in Spanish Constitutionalism (1808-1936)."
Since then, various Spanish media outlets have published at least 10 different examples of material allegedly plagiarized by Suárez, including his exam to become a full college professor, in which he lifted paragraphs from works by his own father, Francoist historian Luis Suárez.
Suárez fought back against the accusations on Nov. 25, when he denied that his methods constituted plagiarism, alleging that his academic publications generated no economic profit and had limited print runs.
He said that the plagiarism cases uncovered by journalists were actually "dysfunctions, because I'm human."
Following his statement, five of the authors affected by Suárez's questionable practices wrote an open letter expressing their "outrage" at the "shameful image" Suárez was giving Spanish public universities and calling for his immediate resignation.
Suárez has repeatedly said he had no intention of stepping down from his top post at the university until the next rectorial election, which is scheduled to be held in the spring of 2017.