|Associate dean of students for
judicial affairs teaches students the importance of intellectual property
in written assignments.
November 10, 2005
By Pamela McLaren
Today’s university students face a
dizzying world of information that is in print, online or on the
air. But along with the wide variety of facts, figures
and other data comes a responsibility to view all sources as intellectual
property that must be attributed when it is used in term papers,
reports and other written assignments.
It is this concept that some students don’t
understand or realize that they may have violated. Nearly 71 percent
of the students that Sandra Rhoten, associate dean of students for
judicial affairs, sees in her office are there because of plagiarism,
many because “they don’t understand the scope and duty
of attribution. Students feel that they worked hard to prepare their
papers, but they cut and paste items and may attribute only at the
end — or only when they use verbatim quotes.”
When she joined the university six years ago, Rhoten
says the role of judicial officer was very limited. She believes
that many students didn’t even realize that the campus had
a judicial officer responsible for articulating the university’s
expected standards of student behavior, including alcohol and drug
violations and academic dishonesty. Through her efforts, however,
she has made her role more visible, “more of an educator.
I help students to do the right thing, rather than catching them
when they have done something wrong.”
||Do we have a high number of students plagiarizing?
Our students aren’t any worse or better than other
students around the country.
Plagiarism has always been the highest percentage of academic
dishonesty cases, no matter where I have been. The numbers
are up but so is enrollment — as well as the tools to
help catch plagiarism, like the software Turnitin.com, which
is available through the Faculty Development Center.
||Is it a matter of laziness or thinking that they can
get away with it?
I’ve found that many students definitely don’t
understand that what they are doing is cheating....not only
not properly citing a source on writing a paper but things
like helping other students on assignments or using a paper
they wrote for one class in another course. I stress that
they shouldn’t sit by friends when taking a test, to
not share their work with others unless it’s a collaborative
project, and not only to not do the wrong thing, but don’t
help others do the wrong thing.
That’s why I am available to give presentations to
classes, speak at faculty department meetings and consult
with members of the academic community.
||How do you help students understand these concepts
of intellectual property?
Some students claim that when they use the same wording
and don’t attribute it to its author it’s because
they couldn’t come up with their own words. But often
it’s because they don’t understand what they’re
reading. I tell them to slow down, review, read and then —
without looking at the text — to try to paraphrase or
summarize the material.
I explain that they are supposed to be demonstrating what
they now know, based on the research they have done. I help
them understand that people’s ideas are theirs, so they
have to give credit to that person for having those ideas.
I also explain that what they do harms them because they
aren’t learning as well as they might; it harms their
classmates because of what their dishonesty does to the grade
curve; and harms the faculty member, who can become cynical
about the effort he is making in the class.
||How can faculty members help students?
||They know the university through me, through their children
— who are being educated here — and with the services
we provide. They like the idea that the Vietnamese students
have a cultural night during the spring. Initially, the students
had difficulty organizing it, because their families said they
had to be home — they didn’t understand and didn’t
trust their children. So, I asked the students to invite their
families to come, and that’s how I brought the community
to the university.
||What goals did you set for yourself and the center?
Faculty should check to see if students understand what
is required when they are given a writing assignment, such
as the required citation method. And never assume that students
understand their duty in attributing sources in their work.
It is also helpful for faculty to limit topics, to require
an outline and require submission of an intermediate draft
and/or notes with the final paper.
Interested faculty members may distribute to their classes
an online handout, “Student Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism:
How to Write an Effective Research Paper,” that is available
under Judicial Affairs.
||What is a professor’s responsibility when he
or she suspects a student of academic dishonesty?
Under university policy (UPS 300-021), faculty should report
students to their department chair and to my office.
I would like faculty members to report cases to me even if
they are simply giving the student an admonition, so the individual
can see the importance Cal State Fullerton places on this
issue. Besides a grade sanction assessed by the instructor,
such as an “O” on the assignment or an “F”
in the course, my office may place the student on disciplinary
probation, suspend or expel the student from the university.
For a first-time offense students may either receive a warning
letter from my office, which reiterates the position of the
university on academic integrity and how the incident is recorded
(on record in my office for seven years) or be called in for
additional sanction. In some cases I ask students to write
another paper for no credit, to show that they understand
what we’ve discussed. In some cases I’ve asked
for apologies to their faculty members.
A second case of dishonesty usually results in suspension
or expulsion from the university. My office serves as a central
repository on campus for academic dishonesty cases and I am
looking for recidivism. Our recidivism rate for academic dishonesty
is very low — only about 4 percent.
I am hopeful that through our outreach programs students
will learn the value of scholarly writing and be able to demonstrate
their own critical thinking while at the same time giving
credit to those scholars who came before them.
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