Monday, December 7, 2009

Yale Sees Jump in Plagiarism Cases

Yale University instituted a new plagiarism policy in 2007, but greater attention to the issue has accompanied an increase in reported plagiarism cases ("Despite Policy Change, Plagiarism Cases Up" - Yale Daily News, December 4, 2009). The policy change mandates that when professors request new course approvals in undergraduate studies, they must state how they will cover the topic of plagiarism and the correct way to cite sources. Coincidentally, the number of reported academic dishonesty incidents rose from 23 in 2006-07 to 29 in 2007-08. To prevent plagiarism, one professor limits her students to source material from a particular Yale archive for an assignment. However, most professors know that the Internet makes copy-and-paste plagiarism easy to do, but electronic anti-plagiarism tools just as quickly catch such unacceptable uses of online information.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Do you think many students know what constitutes plagiarism, but engage in it anyway? Or do you think plagiarism is not understood by most students, so they accidentally plagiarize?
  2. Take a look at the seven examples of plagiarism on the Academic Integrity and Student Success brochure (PDF). Did you already know that those actions would be considered plagiarism by Lone Star College?
  3. What steps do you take to prevent yourself from committing plagiarism when you prepare coursework?

Monday, November 9, 2009

University Repays $600K Grant Due to Plagiarism

Central Michigan University must return National Science Foundation (NSF) grant funds after research showed that "two math faculty allegedly copied and pasted uncited information" in an NSF-sponsored report ("University Officials Expect to Find Source of Money to Return NSF Grant within Two Weeks" - Central Michigan Life, November 4, 2009). University officials voted to repay $619,489 to the NSF, but at least one faculty member questioned the effects of the university losing this amount of money. Two of the seven math professors who worked on the grant secured employment at other universities. Central Michigan officials would not divulge if any punitive action was taken against math grant faculty that remain on staff.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Should faculty be punished for plagiarism, especially when external funding must be repaid as a result of academic dishonesty? Why or why not?
  2. Should the math grant faculty be required to contribute toward repayment of the grant? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think universities put too much pressure on faculty to secure grants instead of teaching students? (See Redefining Research from Michigan State University State News for a snapshot of the urgency to qualify for research funding.) Does this push for external funding cause faculty members to commit plagiarism because they are pressed for time to complete grant reports?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Save Your Soul at a Tennessee University by Not Cheating

A business professor who thought cheating occurred in his MBA class at Middle Tennessee State had students sign an honor code stating they would go to hell if they cheated ("Pledge Condemns Cheaters to Hell, MTSU Students Asked to Sign," (Nashville, TN), November 4, 2009). Some of Thomas Tang's students reported the incident to the department chair. In the video that accompanied the story, it was mentioned that the first part of the honor code included a listing of the 10 Commandments followed by the paragraph about going to hell if students cheated. The professor stated that he was "trying to raise standards" and that he was concerned about the suspected cheating especially since the class recently completed a chapter on ethics.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Would you sign a document pledging to not cheat in class? Why or why not?
  2. If a professor suspected an individual cheated in class, what would be the best way to handle the situation?
  3. Have you ever reported other people you saw cheating in class? Why or why not?
  4. Does it matter to you if other people cheat or plagiarize in a class you're taking? Why or why not?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Illegal Pay Practices Surface for Minimum Wage Workers

Results of a recent study of low-income workers exposed a widespread disregard by their employers for federal labor laws related to overtime pay and minimum wage standards ("Low-Wage Workers Are Often Cheated, Study Says" - The New York Times, September 1, 2009). The study found that of the 4,387 employees studied, 68 percent received an average of 15% less income than they actually earned. Legal immigrants and American-born workers comprised 61% of the workers studied. Workers also reported that 57% were not given "mandatory pay documents the previous week" and 12% said that some tips were withheld. Employees in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City took part in the study, “Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers" sponsored by the Ford Foundation, the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, the Joyce Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Workers for this study were questioned about wages in early 2008 before the economic downturn hit its peak. In 2009, do you think workers likely experience more illegal wage practices as a result of worsening economic conditions for employers? Why or why not?
  2. Do you know someone who has received less pay and tips than they expected due to an employer illegally withholding wages? Do they have an estimate on how much income they lost as a result?
  3. Does the government need to hire more people to check on employers pay practices? Or do business groups need to take more action to encourage employers to pay workers fair wages?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fake Electronic Files that Cannot Be Opened by Professors

Is it acceptable to buy extra time to turn in an assignment by submitting a bogus electronic document that cannot be opened by a professor ("The New Student Excuse?," Inside Higher Ed, June 5, 2009)? offers such a service for $4.95 (until August 31, 2009) to students who cannot or do not care to finish coursework on time. The web site provides Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint "files" of different lengths depending on the assignment requirements. Based on an email response from an address listed at the web site, the creator of this service responded to Inside Higher Ed that should not be considered cheating or plagiarism because the student eventually must submit a genuine assignment.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Is it better to give an honest explanation to a professor if you cannot turn in an assignment on time than use Why or why not?
  2. One of the examples of academic dishonesty in the Lone Star College System brochure on Academic Integrity & Student Success (PDF) is listed below:

    "Using counterfeit documents or false information to delay testing or manipulate course work to an advantage over other students."

    Do you think this example above would agree that sending corrupted files to a professor is academically dishonest? Why or why not?
  3. Is using a file from worse, better, or about the same as buying a paper from an online site that can be opened and graded by a professor? Why or why not?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Orwell Titles Erased from Kindle Book Collections

When Amazon discovered that it was selling unlawful copies of George Orwell's electronic books, the company decided to remove the titles from its Kindle electronic readers even though users purchased what they thought were legitimate copies ("Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle," New York Times, July 17, 2009). Kindle users voiced their astonishment and anger at the removal of Orwell's 1984 (ironically a book about government control of information) and Animal Farm but noted that Amazon erased other purchased books in its Kindle collection before this occurrence. The article also states that Amazon doesn't seem to mention that they reserve the right to remove purchased titles from individual devices in its "terms of service agreement."

Discussion Questions:
  1. The article notes that 1984 is out of copyright in countries such as Canada and Australia and electronic copies of the book are free. Does the global electronic marketplace make it difficult for authors and publishers to control access to their works? Since many people still like to read hard copy books, do you think freely available electronic book copies prevent an author from earning a great deal of money for their works?
  2. Amazon did credit user accounts for the Orwell purchases, but the article mentions that other retailers cannot seize purchased items from consumers. How would you feel about a company seizing electronic materials from your home computer if there was a legal challenge to your right to own it? What long-term effects will this Orwell episode have on sales of Kindle readers?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Plagiarism Charge Hits Television Personality

An author of a celiac disease book accused television talk show co-host, Elisabeth Hasselbeck of plagiarism in a lawsuit filed June 22 ("'View' Co-Host Hasselbeck Accused of Plagiarism," New York Times report from an Associated Press story, June 23, 2009). Susan Hassett, author of Living with Celiac Disease sent Hasselbeck a copy of the book after the co-host of "The View" mentioned that she had the disease last year. Hasselbeck's book, The G-Free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide was published this year and Hassett cites "lists and passages" from her earlier book that have been found in the 2009 book. Also, incorrect information about celiac disease was included in Hasselbeck's book. Hassett's lawsuit aims to stop the sale of the latest book.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are celebrity authors unfairly targeted in plagiarism claims? Or do celebrity authors not possess sufficient expertise on a subject in many cases, so they feel the need to borrow freely from other authors without attribution?
  2. Hassett mentions that Hasselbeck included "lists and passages" from the earlier book by Hassett. The United States Copyright Office at the Library of Congress notes what is not covered by copyright on page 3 of their Copyright Basics web page (PDF format). Unless the "lists" she mentions include added descriptions or explanations, they may not be protected under copyright. Do you think all information (including lists) in an author's work should be protected under copyright law? Why or why not?
  3. Many popular books (in contrast to scholarly research studies) don't include lists of sources in the text of the book or in a bibliography at the end of the book. Should all books list sources used in preparation of that published work? Why or why not?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Kyocera Founder Touts Benevolent Capitalism

Kazuo Inamori, founder of Kyocera, a Japanese cell phone manufacturer, says that companies should "seek profits supported by sound ethics and a strong sense of morality," something that is lacking in the current capitalistic model. ("Kyocera Founder Kazuo Inamori Criticizes U.S. CEO Excesses," April 21, 2009 - USA Today). Greed should not be the underlying principle in the quest for profit according to Inamori. He suggests that profit making should be tempered with what actions are "for the good of society." Inamori also says that astronomically-high executive salaries should not be the norm, because a CEO should share the wealth with all the players who contributed to company success.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Are U.S. executives likely to buy into Inamori's philosophy about profit making with a heart? Why or why not?
  2. Inamori also talks about profit making for the long haul so companies don't settle for short-term profit at the expense of long-term company viability. Will international companies continue to aim for short-term gains instead of long-term solvency as a result of the current economic crisis? Why or why not?
  3. Inamori is an ordained Zen Buddhist monk. Do you believe that religious principles can guide a company to become more successful and increase profits? Why or why not?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Laptop Use in Class-Distracting or Beneficial?

Increased campus wireless access to the Internet at the University of Colorado prompted discussion about laptop use in the classroom (Profs Grapple with Laptop Rules as CU Campus Goes Wireless - Boulder County Daily Camera, March 15, 2009). One student remarked about off-topic Web surfing being distracting and contacted her professor with a plea to restrict Internet use during class. Some professors banned laptops in lecture classes, while others require laptop users to be in the front seats. One clever professor matched laptop use with scores on the first test and 17 heavy laptop users were advised that they scored 11 percent worse than other students. According to the professor, after that alert only six students continued using their laptops and grades of laptop abstainers increased.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Is it a student's right to use a laptop during class, despite the possible distractions it presents to other students? Why or why not?
  2. Does the ability to search online to clarify a class discussion topic make the class presentation more interesting, because you can immediately add something from an online source? Why or why not?
  3. Can most students easily multi-task online during class and keep up with the professor? Why or why not?

Friday, March 20, 2009

MySpace Posts Prompt Nursing Student Dismissal

A former nursing student at the University of Louisville (KY) brought legal action against the school because they forced her to leave the program because of outspoken MySpace posts (U of L Dismisses Nursing Student over Blog Posts, Louisville Courier-Journal, March 14, 2009). The blogger, Nina Yoder, requested that she be allowed to return to the nursing program because the school "violated her First Amendment rights."

The nursing school countered that Yoder was expelled because she mentioned her affiliation with the University in the posts, talked about patients, used profanity, and made derogatory comments about ethnic and religious groups which violates the school's nursing honor code. In one section of the nursing honor code, students must pledge to maintain "confidentiality and professionalism in all my written work, spoken word, actions and interactions with patients."

Discussion Questions:
  1. Do universities have the right to dismiss students because of activities outside classrooms and clinical settings?
  2. The University of Louisville includes a statement on academic freedom at their website. It clearly states that "students have a right to their own views on matters of opinion, rather than fact, and a right to express those views in appropriate ways." If Nina Yoder did not disclose patient names, should she be able to talk about working with patients in her blog posts?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Professor Shuns Plagiarism Police Role

In her new book, My Word! Plagiarism and College Culture, University of Notre Dame anthropologist Susan D. Blum promotes a proactive academic integrity appeal to students that encourages recognizing originality and distinguishing between levels of plagiarism (It’s Culture, Not Morality, Inside Higher Ed, February 3, 2009). With a greater emphasis on collaboration and a "entirely different concept of ownership," today's students need more education on what is acceptable when using the work of others in assignments rather than a heavy emphasis on the penalties for plagiarism. Also, constructing assignments to minimize the opportunity for plagiarism is an important academic integrity tool for professors.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Do most professors assume that students know what academic integrity means by the time they reach college?
  2. How much do professors explain acceptable practices when students work on assignments?
  3. Do you think most professors agree that it's a good idea for students to work together on projects?
  4. Is all plagiarism equally bad? Or is forgetting to cite a source worse than copying a paragraph from a book and not putting quotes around it?

Company Put Profits over Safety in Tainted Peanut Scandal

Allegations that the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) willfully sold salmonella-contaminated peanuts that caused at least nine deaths and made over 600 people ill in 43 states continues to rock the entire food industry (Salmonella Outbreak Eases Way for Food Safety Reforms, Baltimore Sun, February 15, 2009). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes that PCA owner, Stewart Parnell disregarded "at least 12 tests revealing salmonella in 2007 and 2008" and persisted in distributing peanut products in a quest to increase profits. A criminal investigation is underway into PCA's actions.

In the wake of this tragedy, food safety advocates are calling for reform of the FDA with one Connecticut congressperson calling for a new agency, Food Safety Administration to work proactively to prevent food contamination. Rep. Rosa DeLauro sponsored legislation for the Food Safety Modernization Act to mandate that "companies control health hazards in their operations and meet federal standards for removing contaminants and be subject to regular inspections, based on the "risk profile" of the food they produce." Also, the act would give government the ability to "seize unsafe products and order recalls."

Discussion Questions:
  1. Why would a company risk lives by distributing unsafe products? Are companies so desperate to make money in a downturned economy that they would do anything to increase profits? Didn't someone realize that continuing to distribute these dangerous products would ultimately cause the downfall of the company and related businesses?
  2. Despite additional government inspections and regulations, the consumer still must depend on the food industry to act responsibly and follow safe practices when processing their products. How can the food industry ensure that companies employ best practices when processing food?
  3. After reading this article from the Baltimore Sun, what other practices or regulations would you recommend to improve food safety?