Dec. 8, 2010
As editors-in-chief of the Watch, our job is to direct dialogue and debate at King’s. Last Friday, that dialogue turned to din as King’s was abuzz with rumours of FYP students accused of plagiarizing their last essay.
This was precisely the news our student magazine and paper of record should cover, and we feel we were successful. Our new Twitter feed broke the story, cited by the Chronicle Herald in their own story that was picked up by various radio and newspaper outlets in the city. And our article posted soon after, exclusive to our website, was a necessary voice that provided facts and clarification to a public caught up in unsubstantiated rumour.
In the fallout of the story, there are a couple things we’d like to clarify.
One is that the Watch exists in large part to keep King’s accountable. But while the number of students involved in the incident is newsworthy — as we reported, it was the most that Dr. Peggy Heller saw at one time in her academic career — the news does not mean that we are out for blood. Rather, we were looking to give clear shape to a subject that clearly the King’s community cares about. Moreover, we wanted to shed light on the dangerous gossip – that the accused students were from a single tutorial, that many stole whole essays from online – that held serious consequences for the first-year students whose guilt or innocence had yet to be decided.
Secondly, we took special care to ensure that our coverage was not an attack on the students involved in the incident. Like we said, they were simply accused of plagiarism. Though our initial number of “over 20” students was incorrect, it was from a source that we trusted, and immediately afterwards Dr. Heller was called to confirm the number. In other words, we took rumours and formed them into fact. What’s more, we corrected people who brazenly referred to the accused students as straight-up “plagiarists”.
Thirdly, we did not intend to provide fodder for anti-King’s sentiment, but are aware that we did. Tweets that suggest that King’s is generally lax on its punishment, that if you don’t want to write an essay you should go to King’s — we regret these insofar that we allowed small-minded people the opportunity to state their small-minded opinions about a school that has a world-class curriculum and high academic standards. And to think that plagiarism doesn’t happen in other universities is frankly idiotic and an example of misplaced arrogance.
Whether or not the students committed a relatively minor academic offence, the story demonstrates the concern our community has for its members and its reputation. And we’ll continue to be a part of those things that King’s cares about.
Adrian Lee & Griffin McInnes
Editors-in-Chief, The Watch