The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Survey shows many incidences of plagiarism go undiscovered

By Emma WestRasmus

There were two cases of student plagiarism reported this semester, which is on the low end of Macalester’s semester average. Director of Academic Programs Ann Minnick said this semester’s total number is down from last spring semester, which recorded four cases. The number of cases typically ranges from two to six per semester, and the average is determined by 15 years of records, which report at least one case in every department in those 15 years.

According to Minnick, neither of the two cases this semester involved freshmen, nor were they a third violation for a single person, which results in dismissal from Macalester. There have been no cases of third violations in the 15 years for which the College maintains data, nor have there been any cases of forgery or cheating in the past year since Minnick began her tenure in Macalester’s administration.

“Most cases are first violations,” Minnick said.

The College’s policy for plagiarism and academic integrity, which can be found on the school’s Web site, states that the typical consequences for first violations result in a grade of zero for the assignment in which the violation was found. A second violation results in suspension for a semester.

An educational program now accompanies a first violation of plagiarism, whichMinnick said is the result of one case last year.

“A student who was found guilty of plagiarism last year didn’t understand what he did wrong, and we realized we didn’t have a strong enough educational component,” she said. “We wanted to make sure we’re giving students a better understanding of what plagiarism is, and how to avoid it in the future.”

The Mac Weekly conducted a survey of 433 Macalester students this week and found that most students say they understand the College’s academic integrity policies. When asked to how clear they find Macalester’s plagiarism guidelines, 47 percent of students said they were “somewhat clear” and 39 percent said they were “very clear,” while 11 percent reported that they were “not very clear,” and 2 percent that they were “not at all clear.”

Minnick said that when a case arises, the director of academic programs also sends a letter to the Dean of Students, as well as the faculty member and student involved in the case. Because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Minnick is not allowed to notify parents if their child is involved in a plagiarism case.

“Unless their student has signed a release, I don’t contact the parents,” she said. “Even if a student has a signed release form on file, I always check with the student to make sure they are comfortable with that.”

According to a faculty member in the social sciences who dealt with one of this semester’s plagiarism cases, both plagiarism cases this semester have come out of the same department. The faculty member agreed to speak under the condition of anonymity to protect the identity of the student who plagiarized and said that the plagiarized material was cut from an Internet source and pasted into a written assignment.

“It was a pretty bad, full-out rip,” the faculty member said. “It was an undeniable case of plagiarism.”

The student admitted to the plagiarism and noted that it was a time-pressure issue.

“The student got lazy,” the faculty member said.

The faculty member’s experience with plagiarism cases reflected the data on record that most cases they see are first-time violations. The faculty member said they have never had a case involving a senior. Minnick attributes this to the fact that expectations are higher for juniors and seniors.

The faculty member also said that it’s generally quite easy to detect plagiarized material.

“Student writing just isn’t that good, so changes in writing quality are pretty evident,” the faculty member said.

According to a student in the class who also wished to remain anonymous, the faculty member told the class that someone had plagiarized a written assignment from a Web site.

“My professor said that both the professor and our preceptor had caught on to it while reading it,” the student said. “I still don’t know who the student [who plagiarized] was, or why they did it. To be honest, it’s kind of a mystery to me why someone would do that when it’s so easy to write something basic.”

The social science professor later told the class the student had been reported to the director of academic programs.

“It made everyone in the class pretty hyper-vigilant about using Internet resources in our papers from then on,” the student said.

The faculty member taught at another academic institution prior to coming to Macalester, and said that they encounter less instances of plagiarism here than at the previous school.

“There are generally better students here, and more trustworthy,” the faculty member said. “Macalester faculty also offers lots of original assignments, which help to obviate the chance of plagiarism.”

Though there have only been two reported plagiarism cases this semester, Chair of the Sociology Department Terry Boychuk noted that the numbers of reported cases are not necessarily reflective of the number of actual incidents of plagiarism that occur in a given semester.

“Most cases are plea-bargained outside of normal channels,” Boychuk said. “It’s rare that a case makes it to the formal process. The college’s records aren’t that helpful.”

Boychuk said that it’s normally chronic and flagrant problems that are brought to the administration, and if students concede an honest error and are forthright and contrite, cases are usually dealt with informally.

“It’s typically when students are dishonest or obstinate that cases are brought to the administration to get it in [students’] heads they’ve done something wrong,” he said.

Chair of the International Studies Department David Chioni Moore expressed a different assessment of how faculty deal with plagiarism cases, and said it would be “totally inappropriate” for any faculty member to deal with an academic misconduct case only privately.

“Any colleague I have ever engaged with on such an issue has reported it-and I would insist they do so,” Moore said.”The reason for this is simple: if ahypothetical student transgresses twicein separate courses, and each professor deals with it only privately, a much larger problem wrongly goesunnoticed.”

The Mac Weekly survey found that 23 percent of students admit to failing to cite sources when the ideas were not their own, an offense that can lead to a plagiarism case being reported to the administration. Twenty-six students acknowledged that they have directly lifted or copied work that was not their own, whether it was sentences, paragraphs or pages. Just 1 percent, or six students, indicated that they have handed in work that was not their own.

View Comments (7)
More to Discover

Comments (7)

All The Mac Weekly Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • S

    Sophie InceSep 11, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    Hi there, this weekend is nice designed for me, for the reason that this occasion i am reading this wonderful informative post here at my residence.

  • J

    Julian FraserSep 10, 2019 at 8:25 am

    Pictures are really nice source of education instead of passage, its my knowledge, what would you say?

  • R

    Richard ParrSep 7, 2019 at 4:43 pm

    Wow! Thank you! I continually needed to write on my blog something like that. Can I implement a portion of your post to my site?