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Today's lesson in irony

Is a story like this and the fact that college students use wikipedia as a reference source, a scary trend in US education?

SAN ANTONIO - University of Texas at San Antonio students wanted to draft an honor code that discouraged cheating and plagiarizing.

Unfortunately, it appears they copied Brigham Young University's code without proper attribution.

The student in charge of drafting the code said it was an oversight, but cheating experts say it illustrates a sloppiness among Internet-era students who don't know how to cite sources properly and think of their computers as cut-and-paste machines.

"That's the consequence of the Internet and the availability of things," said Daniel Wueste, director of the Rutland Center for Ethics at Clemson University. "It doesn't feel like what would be in a book. You Google it and here it comes."

Akshay Thusu said he took over the project a month ago and inherited a draft from students who came before him. He said he discovered that a group of students attended a conference five years ago put on by Clemson's Center for Academic Integrity.

Materials from the conference, which are used by many universities, were probably the main source of UTSA's code, Thusu said. That's why parts of the UTSA draft match word-for-word the online version of BYU's code.


About 30 percent of papers are "less than original," Barrie said. About half of the cheating hits come from the Internet and the other half from student papers. A fraction come from library sources, he said.

Barrie said the No. 1 source is Wikipedia.org, where any user can write and edit entries.
"You tell me, is that a scary trend?" Barrie said.

I do think its a scary trend.

The student at The University of Texas at San Antonio reminds me of the Japanese college professor last year who plagiarized most of a paper on copyrights. What are schools coming to these days? What is happening may be as simple as students and educators not knowing what is right and wrong and the failure of public schools to either teach morals or give enough time to their teaching. I guess whatever awareness week or month it is at any current time is more important to educators. Just tells you why most of the US school system is so screwed up at present.

Update: A e-mailer informs us that Melissa Ludwig of the San Antonio Express-News originally broke this story, which the AP is now running in a slightly modified version (like the one we linked to and these other examples [1, 2, 3]) without any author attribution. Perhaps that's lesson two in irony...


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Comments (7)

It's pure laziness. The rea... (Below threshold)

It's pure laziness. The real peer-reviewed/primary source info is there in the fantastically well-stocked libraries. Thing is, lots of kids would rather attend tailgate parties than write real essays. It's a lot of fun giving some lazy/stupid person a failing grade for citing only Wikipedia after you told them not to use it as even a starting point, and then trying not to laugh while they stamp their feet and complain about the lack of hours in a week--as though being a student is a particulary trying lifestyle...

I think 0% percent of the blame lies with educators, insofar as they make it clear what constitutes real research and what doesn't. (For every class I took, TA'd, or taught, this was made very clear.) That kids can get away with it is hardly the fault of faculty, lest we hold some 62-year-old anthropology professor who can't tie his shoes responsible for not being able to catch perpetrators of electronic fraud. (Not to stereotype...)

I had a brat expelled for plagiarizing parts of an essay, and then swearing at me in an e-mail after I sent him a discreet memo suggesting he re-submit his work with proper citations lest he face serious consequences from the department. His parents threatened to sue the university, basically saying that they couldn't give a shit what the department of philosophy thinks about their kid's cheating, as they weren't paying $20,000 per year (4x national average tuition) for their kid to study commerce only to be expelled for not taking philosophy electives seriously. So... also blame the parents for creating a culture of entitlement amongst young upper class people...?

I agree with Matthew but wo... (Below threshold)

I agree with Matthew but would add it is also the lack of personal ethics. They know they are cheating. No character. ww

The surveys over the last c... (Below threshold)

The surveys over the last couple of decades has shown a steady erosion in students' ethics, especially towards cheating. It's become matter-of-fact to all too many.

Of course, the internet, which has facilitated much of the plagiarism in recent years, also provides an easy means of catching them: a search of a few key words or phrases can yield the source in seconds. It's made easier by the fact that fewer cheaters these days even feel the need to paraphrase when stealing another's words - just cut 'n' paste 'n' print, research paper done, back to the party.

Plagiarizing your new Honor Code does rise to a new level of stupidity, though.

It's... like... cheating bu... (Below threshold)

It's... like... cheating but totally post-modern.

Actually, it's a bit harder to catch cheaters than simple Google searches, Jim, because there are underfunded grad students in lower-tiered schools who will happily churn out a 15 page paper for some brat willing to fork over a few hundred bucks. In fact, I'd be surprised if there aren't already "factories" in India that churn out original work for cheaters on any given subject. Off-shore outsourcing: it's not just for grown-ups and literate people anymore!

I'm in college, and the cra... (Below threshold)

I'm in college, and the crap that I see passed off as "research" or "essays" is appalling. There is no way on God's green earth I would ever cite Wikipedia. Scholarly journals, books, online scholarly databases, primary sources, dissertations, field-specific encyclopedias - all of those and more are good sources, but not Wikipedia.

If I ever make it to being a college prof, I will make it my personal goal to expel every sniveling little brat that throws some plagiarized piece of garbage on my desk. That's absolutely unacceptable.

As another irony you did no... (Below threshold)

As another irony you did not mention Bill, BYU's former president Merrill J. Bateman was himself caught in plagiarism back in 1996.

...as though one needed ano... (Below threshold)

...as though one needed another reason not to take BYU seriously.






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