Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Plagiarpolicogony: Homan Said Let There Be A New Plagiarism Policy, And There Was, And Several Students Cried In His Office, But Overall It Was Good

I am so fed up with plagiarism. The problem is rampant and in the long run I am not happy with myself as a teacher for being lax in curbing this problem. The world in my opinion is growing increasingly relativistic and people don't value integrity. Leaders lie repeatedly, and the current views about "truth" in the world involve two extremists yelling at each other and spinning the interpretation of data. So what should I do? I’ve been thinking a great deal about this lately.

Unfortunately, the current university policy here at Xavier University of Louisiana is vague. It states in the Student Handbook
"Academic Dishonesty: Students may not engage in plagiarism, receive or give assistance during examinations, term papers, assignments, seminars, etc., or obtain without authorization an examination or parts of an examination before taking the examination. Students must adhere to university, college or specific course guidelines regarding the use and documentation of sources of information, specifically information accessed on the internet."

Plus I just noticed that at Xavier's home page, when you search for words with Google, at the bottom of the results page it says "Find academic research papers with Google Scholar" which links you to papers. Yikes! It has never been easier to plagiarize.

My own policy listed in my Course Commitments page says:
"Academic Honesty. Students that cheat on or plagiarize any assignment will fail the class. If you have any questions about what constitutes cheating or plagiarism, please ask me."

I have students read this at the beginning of the semester and email me saying they agree to this (and other) conditions. Also on my syllabi I state:
"Any student who plagiarizes a writing assignment shall receive an automatic F for the assignment and must meet with the instructor before being permitted to continue in the course. Plagiarizing material from the internet has been a major problem recently. Please paraphrase and provide citations when necessary."

But each semester I grow a bit more lax in enforcing this. There are a couple of pending graduates who will fail my course and not graduate because of plagiarism in part. They had the chance to rewrite the paper, but I never heard from them once the deadlines for senior grades were due, so they failed. I suspect in the next few days I'll get an email from them about a horribly sad story begging for another chance.

I feel my current policy is OK, but the way that I fail to enforce it compromises my academic integrity, and it is not fair to the students who put in the work to write proper papers. A couple of years ago I would give students a 0 on the portion of plagiarized work and they would often either drop my course or wind up passing with a D or even a C based on other work. But I've spoken to several people about their own policies, the problem of plagiarism, and my rights at a professor, and I have decided to implement a Zero Tolerance Plagiarism Policy, or ZiTPiP as it will come to be known. What this means is that even if so much as one clause is plagiarized, then I will fail the student in the course, not allow them to drop, notify the Dean of their college, and their academic advisor, and bring the matter up before the University Hearing Committee. To be fair and to cover myself, I will have to revise in detail my statement on the syllabus, and I should set up a webpage about plagiarism that I will require students to view, and I will have to spend about 10 minutes of classtime on the topic.

Finally, it is sure easy to act so tough alone in my office. What will I do when the tears start flowing and I have to hear sob stories about growing up in poverty, and how due to poor public education they had no idea what constituted plagiarism, and that they can't let poor grandma, who is weeks away from death, fail to see them graduate? I had better stock up on kleenex. I hope that word gets out around campus that plagiarism is a very dangerous game in my classes, and that students just shouldn't take that chance.


Anonymous said...

Ditto, Good for you...and I am a student (one of yours from Prophets and Prophecy)

Anonymous said...


mac ice said...

Greetings friend,
Just stumbled onto your page through NT Gateway blog. I have found a helpful exercise from an Instructor of Classics at McCallie School in Chattanooga. I have adapted it to Biblical studies courses I teach (also at the High School level). I have my studetns complete the exercise each fall semester.

grace and peace,
McGarvey Ice