Sunday, December 27, 2009

Are University Administrations More Lenient Towards Plagiarism Today Than 20 Years Ago?

In my most recent post on plagiarism, Walt commented that he felt there has been a significant change in administration culture in the last fifteen years. That is today university administrations are generally far more lenient towards plagiarism than they were two decades ago. My sense is that this is true. But, I have limited data points. So my question to anybody involved in education is has there been a signficant cultural change allowing for the tolerance of plagiarism by university administrators and if there has been when did it happen?


Walt Richmond said...

Well, as I said before, there has definitely been a cultural shift over the past decade, and the attitude toward plagiarism has changed. I'm not sure it's leniency so much as fear of legal ramifications. As I mentioned, the case at my college concerns a potential lawsuit. This could have two source: first, an increase in the predatory behaviors of lawyers, who have found a new feeding ground, and second, a further shift toward coddling children and young adults. I know our generation experienced this, but it's become even more pervasive in the current young generation. One example: ten years ago, a student would never get up in the middle of a class to go to the restroom. I can't even remember a case prior to 2000 where a student raised his hand to ask to be allowed to go. Now, students freely get up unannounced and head to the restroom. I asked a student with whom I had a good rapport about it, and he told me (in a somewhat surprised tone) that he was taught that it's very bad not to go to the bathroom when you feel the need, and that it was alright to walk out of a class to do so.

This seems off-topic I know, but it is an example of the coddling I mentioned. And I think that parents challenging a college's plagiarism policy is another symptom of this behavior.


J. Otto Pohl said...


Thanks for the comment. When I first started working at AUCA we had a real problem with students talking on cell phones during class. We seem to have reduced the problem now. But, I still do have students get up and leave class without any warning and then return later. My guess is that the vast majority of them do so to talk on their cell phones, not use the toilet.

Kenneth said...

Catching up on your blog and I would say the Internet and easy accessibility of information to download with a simple click from Google search is the main culprit. So many C.A. students, if not properly trained, think they are doing research if they get something off the web, links and all. Their dear teachers don't know any better and just let it pass. So, here in C.A. it has been a problem but I think there are lazy teachers in the U.S. who don't check into students' papers and abilities in writing so they let things pass that should be checked. Thanks to there are institutions that are trying to curb this epidemic of "kidnapping" others' words. So, yes you are right, administrators perhaps don't want to be bothered but more likely it is the teachers who don't want to take the extra step to monitor all the students' papers that come to them. I've dealt with this problem for a LONG time and it will not go away until students find out that their voice (in writing) matters. They have to take ownership of their views and I think blogs, Facebook and Twitter help for students to know their opinion matters. The next logical step is to get them to dig around and find academics who have already written what they think and then to document it. That's my job as a writing teacher. I hope you have qualified writing teachers at your university, makes your job easier.