The outsider's approach.
Acknowledging that there has been no groundswell of approval for the establishment of a Plagiarism Ministry here in Ottawa – see earlier notes where I volunteered for the post – I believe my non-academic control-freak approach will add new light, if not new wisdom to the debate. It is my opinion that some are “confusing” a teaching philosophy, approaches to writing, etc. with an obligation to institutional integrity. I do not use obligation lightly. I suspect that this is a mutual obligation that exists at a teaching unit level, college/university level and even larger level.
The control approach of an auditor is exemplified in going to the sources [the excerpts at the bottom of the page] which address the three questions that follow. What are your obligations to your employer – the university? How are these exercised? What is the result? This would be the criteria associated with a typical line of enquiry in a values and ethics audit.
The obligations to the employer are shown for Carleton U in the collective agreement. There is established a mutual goal of academic excellence. It would be my contention that this excellence cannot be attained if the students who do not do their own work are rewarded equally with the students who do their own work. Speficially, this woiuld question the integrity of an acaemic who could not distinguish one from the other. Therefore, how do you deal with those who cheat? The university lays out a policy and the professor is required to enforce it. Not debate, nor interpret, but enforce. If I am not seen to be pushing the limits here - then I have missed my guess. It is what the professor is paid to do, and through her collective agrement has agreed to do. When doubt exists, or when authenticity and originality are questionned, then the paper goes to the next level. This is where my new Ministry in Ottawa could help, with a flat file database of millions, nay
billions of essays to cross-refer to. We would call it the LBC [Little Brother Computer - to avoid misgivings] and be sure to encrypt everything.
The results shows 100 of 10,000 students were found guilty of plagiarism last year. Or, 9,900 were not cheating.
The process for plagiarism requires the professor to make the exercise official. In essence “to write it up” for submission to the Dean. At his point, the bureaucrats have a very straightforward exercise ahead of them of tracing textuality – provenance. Once proven – failing grades and possible excommunication from the halls of academia follow. But, a very big but, it is not the professor who makes the decision as to the crime and punishment. It is the professor’s job to identify the potential abuse. It is the bureaucrats’ task to document, apply natural justice concerns, etc…. The Dean’s Office finds there was, or was not, plagiarism.
Thus, plagiarism is the fraud of academia. It is rated as a capital offence and is punishable in a similar manner. Some believe all criminal matters could be expiated by education or other interventions. I do not. I believe the guilty should be suitably punished. I believe Carleton has [on paper at least] an acceptable system to control fraud and to promote academic integrity. These are not, IMO, in the real world, mutually exclusive concepts.
A short point on why this may be so. Risk. Some people cannot succeed in university. In order to acquire the trappings and the social capital, they will use all means at their disposal. Plagiarism is one means to succeed. Plagiarism minimizes the risk of originality and excludes consideration of the requirement for hard work, talent and intelligence can be minimized.
I realize I have glossed over the structural and “inkshedding” approaches to original writing that minimize the potential for such fraud and leave this to others that are much better qualified than I to discuss it.
I have included at the bottom of this electronic page, excerpts of the Carleton U collective agreement and website warnings for those who may care to peruse them.
Michael J. Ryan
Soon to be Head of the Ministry of Truth
AKA Anti-plagiarism Department
The parties recognize that the goal of the University is the attainment of the highest possible standards of academic excellence in the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge, to be achieved principally through teaching, scholarship/research and community service. The parties agree to cooperate in the promotion and enhancement of the University and to encourage a climate of freedom, responsibility and mutual respect in the pursuit of these goals. It is the purpose of this collective agreement to foster and continue the existing harmonious relations within the University community and to provide an amicable means for settling differences which may arise from time to time between the employer and the employees in the bargaining unit.
What the general academic website has to say of plagiarism:
The Penalties for plagiarism.
Plagiarism is considered a form of academic dishonesty, and is deeply resented by all
professors. The Carleton procedure for dealing with evidence of this and other
instructional offences is for professors to forward evidence to the Deans’ offices. The
Associate Deans then hold interviews with students suspected of plagiarism and make a
decision as to whether the allegations are to be sustained. If found guilty, students are
given failing grades in either the piece of work concerned, or the whole course. In
extremely serious cases, or for repeat offences, more severe penalties can be enacted by
the University Senate. Letters of reprimand are also placed in student files. Over 100
students last year were convicted of plagiarism, and most found it a traumatic experience.
DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!!
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