AUC continues to aggressively target plagiarism
Tuesday, April 24th, 2012
The accused was Hungarian President Pal Schmitt.
Acts of plagiarism have become more common in the new media age - especially with easy access to information online - and are not restricted to academia.
In the past decade, several prominent US newspapers reported cases of plagiarism and failure to cite paraphrased work.
In AUC, the administration continues to identify student plagiarism continues as a problem challenging the university's academic integrity and it's stature.
Timothy Warren, a senior instructor at the Department of Rhetoric and Composition and a member of AUC's Council on Academic Integrity, describes 'plagiarism' as the act of taking someone else's work and not acknowledging that the information has been borrowed, or the act of "pretending it's your own work or not citing the source of the information".
AUC's Code of Academic Integrity clearly defines plagiarism as a violation resulting in severe consequences that could lead up to a loss of financial aid and scholarships, suspension, or expulsion.
Warren stressed the magnitude of plagiarism as a growing problem, but was convinced that AUC is currently raising enough awareness about the issue.
"The university is doing a lot more than it used to," Warren said, adding that "the Council on Academic Integrity didn't exist 10 years ago."
It was created at a vital time when the university's accreditation was threatened, Warren said.
What many plagiarists don't realize is that while the Internet makes it easier to copy someone else's work, it also offers professors and administrators a means to detect violations.
In recent years, professors have been using websites such as turnitin.com, to which students upload the first drafts of their papers for electronic evaluation.
If a paper is flagged for any reason, the professor has time to talk to the student and set them on the right path before a final draft is submitted. This provides professors and students with a learning tool that helps fight and decrease plagiarism.
While most professors who use this system are very dependent on it, they don't really need a plagiarism detector to tell them when a student has plagiarized. Professors can usually identify plagiarized papers upon reading them, and recognizing that it is not written in the 'voice of the student,' or when it has been simply taken word-for-word off the internet.
One of the problems with tackling the issue of plagiarism is that coordination between the entire faculty and departments is not an easy task and thus in some situations, the professors do not file a case and attempt to deal with the student themselves.
Some faculty members hesitate to report students because they fear the council will be too harsh on the student.
However, if a student is requested to attend a hearing for their case, the council is always very eager to find out the students point of view, why they plagiarized and what they think of the situation they're in.
Warren estimated that there are usually about fifty cases of plagiarism per semester, with some students who are required to meet the council more than once.
First-time offenders will always have their name put in a confidential database, accessible only by the Council of Academic Integrity, for the sole purpose of identifying if a student receives a second violation, in which case the consequences will be much more severe.
If a student admits that they made a mistake, for any understandable reason, the student will not receive any punishment and the situation is usually resolved without problems. However, if a student fails to recognize that they have plagiarized or don't realize how serious of a situation they face, that student would be required to attend several meetings with he council to help the student understand the severity of their actions.
Warren says that students cite time management as one of the reasons that leads them to plagiarize.
He said that students need to realize that they should ask for an extension from their professors if they are under pressure. The consequences of plagiarizing are always going to be worse than getting a zero on your assignment,.
Warren says that students must resist the temptation to copy and paste someone else's work. He says that the important thing to remember is that professors will always be more impressed with original attempts, even if clumsy and imperfect, than they will when the work is obviously taken from someone else.
Ashraf El-Fiqi, the Vice-President of Student Affairs, agrees that the university is spreading enough awareness and doing what it can to combat plagiarism.
First year students hear the word plagiarism often in class from professors, to educate them on its dangerous consequences. Whether within the academic curriculum, or in non-academic activities, the issue of plagiarism is stressed as a big violation and to be avoided.
The Caravan surveyed 100 students and asked them to define plagiarism and its academic consequences.
Nearly 95 percent were able to clearly identify the meaning of plagiarism but only 60 percent said they believed the university was doing enough to spread awareness of the issue.
Some students suggested that administration enforce tougher penalties for known plagiarists. Others called for transparency saying that the Council should report on plagiarism cases to the community.