Student plagiarism not always handled properly

USD Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Chuck Staben said plagiarism at the University of South Dakota isn’t always followed by proper procedure.

English Department Chair John Dudley said there are two ways to approach plagiarism at USD: academically and through student conduct.

“The academic decision is at the discretion of the instructor,” he said. “Instructors can make a referral to Student Life.”

However, Staben said, sometimes the cases are not always referred to Student Rights and Responsibilities.

“If (a student is) caught plagiarizing, they would go through a student disciplinary code process. At least, that is the official process. Sometimes these matters are handled within the classroom at the discretion of the instructor,” Staben said. “Formally, it should go through the 3.4 process.”

The South Dakota Board of Regents’ student conduct code dictates how plagiarism is dealt with at the University of South Dakota.

Plagiarism is a violation of the South Dakota Board of Regents code 3.4 or the student conduct code — therefore, it is to be handled by Student Life.

“Academic Affairs is the right way to go, not Student Services,” senior Emily McKeen said. “A good starting point would be with the professor.”

The reason it is referred to Student Services is to allow for due process with the student, Teresa McDowell-Johnson, Director of Student Rights and Responsibilities said.

The other goal, she said, is to funnel cases of plagiarism from different departments in one central location on campus.

McDowell-Johnson estimated there were approximately 20 cases brought to Student Rights and Responsibilities last year.

When a faculty member believes a student is plagiarizing, they deal with the academic side, such as the grade. A referral is then made to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

“We identify if the student has actually plagiarized,” McDowell-Johnson said.

Depending on the severity of the incident, students can be placed on probation or even expelled, McDowell-Johnson said.

“The first routes that are taken are educationally, what resources can we provide students so that they are not having a referral in the future,” said McDowell-Johnson.

Senior Amelia Lundin said rather than an automatic referral to Student Rights and Responsibilities, the professor needs to identify what type of plagiarism took place.

“The professor needs to gauge whether or not it was real plagiarism and how to correctly deal with it,” Lundin said.

Carol Leibiger, an associate professor and coordinator of information literacy, said faculty members should use accidental plagiarism as an educational opportunity.

“For the students who are inadvertently plagiarizing, if faculty members discover, that could make it into a teaching moment rather than penalizing the student, or only penalizing the student, then we would be treating inadvertent plagiarism appropriately,” Leibiger said.

USD has implemented in first-year English courses information literacy programs and quizzes to teach students about academic integrity and plagiarism.

“Students need to remember what they learned in English 101,” Leibiger said.

Leibiger said students not taking enough time with research can cause accidental plagiarism.

“If they don’t take enough time, then they don’t keep track of where they got their information,” Leibiger said.

Michelle Rogge Gannon, USD Writing Center director, said students can make appointments to go over Modern Language Association citation styles to make sure they are using the correct styles.

“The Writing Center is a good place for them to practice those skills. It is student writer to student writer conversation,” Rogge Gannon said. “We see this as an opportunity for them to help gain skills.”

She said the student is ultimately responsible for plagiarism after visiting the Writing Center.

Dudley said if students still are unsure about if they are plagiarizing they should talk to their instructor.

“There are a lot of gray areas,” he said. “You just have to ask.”

Students often merely need to be educated as to what is plagiarism, Leibiger said.

“It’s been my experience that the vast amount of plagiarism is unintentional, that students don’t know how to handle resources or they have misconceptions about who owns information, especially information on the Internet,” Leibiger said.

Plagiarism is a violation of property rights and copyright violations are a violation of the law she said.

If a student is accused of plagiarism, he or she does have the right to appeal an academic decision, according to BOR policy 2.9.

The student would have to speak with the instructor first, then an immediate administrative superior. Students can then bring the issue to the provost’s office.

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