Foundation Year plagiarism?

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In an unusual turn, it’s professors that are stressing patience and understanding as students call for significant academic penalties, as 15 Foundation Year Programme (FYP) students have been accused of plagiarism in their most recent essays.
In the morning of Dec. 3, FYP Director Dr. Peggy Heller addressed this year’s class. She told them that some students had been accused of plagiarising from an online source on the most recent essay on Dante’s The Divine Comedy.
Although she’s disappointed (this was the most allegations of plagiarism she’s seen at one time in her academic career), she made clear that the students will remain at the school.
“For first time offenders, [the punishments] range from marks being deducted to failing the paper,” said Heller in a later interview. “There is no possibility of expulsion.
“I’m appalled by the desire to punish. You have to allow people to make mistakes.”
Heller saw the site that the students borrowed from, and said that the copying was not “wholesale”, but rather only “little bits”.
Students didn’t see it the same way. With many of them hearing from friends that at least one alleged plagiarist copied an essay in full, most students are demanding significant punishment.
“I felt like that wasn’t harsh enough where people had plagiarized entire essays,” said Karen Gross, a first-year student. “It’s not more of a serious punishment than handing in a third late paper or just writing a bad paper.”
Second-year student Kate Howell agreed. “If they are taking full essays from online, they deserve to be kicked out of the program.”
“Expulsion might not be getting the point across, the point that the people up there want — that one can get a second chance,” said FYP student Taylor Saracuse. “But to say that plagiarism is just the same as a late paper, for me, is just very inconsistent.
“I feel like my degree is being devalued by the punishment they are most likely going to be served, that’s the thing that pisses me off the most.”
Heller also stressed that no one has been proven guilty. All the students who have been accused will have the opportunity to defend themselves when they meet with the academic integrity officer, Stephen Kimber.
But considering the higher standard they hold themselves to, and the frequency of the reminders of the perils of plagiarism — the definition and its consequences are iterated and reiterated on every set of FYP questions and every King’s class’s syllabus — King’s students are disappointed.
“I was kind of embarrassed,” said Saracuse. “You come to this program at least knowing that you are going to be with people who you believe care about education.”
Check back for updates on this story as we get them.

4 replies on “Foundation Year plagiarism?”

You people did not actually break the story. did. And you tweeted about it from a conversation you had with the lead reporter as their story was unfolding. Shame on you.

We actually picked up the story from a tip from’s reporter, as well as through a number of King’s students, and then sent our own reporter to cover the story. We tweeted it first, not to the discredit of Corey, who we worked with and whose work we then retweeted as a follow up.

I was interested and relieved to see the front page of the January 2011 issue which was headlined “We’re tired of hearing about plagiarism, too.” (Apropos of nothing, when a prospective landlord heard I was a FYP student he asked if I was “one of the 15”. The FYP 15 are like some sort of terrorist organization now.) However, to then continue reading and see TWO more articles on plagiarism (“All Bark, No Bite” and “Black Market Academia”) was very disappointing. If the Watch really wanted to commit to putting this non-newsworthy story behind us (WAY behind us, it’s NEXT semester and we’re still talking about it) maybe a cover that didn’t feature a cute cartoon of a student plagiarizing would have been a better way to go.

Hi there,
We fought with this too. But we decided that considering this was a defining story for the college in 2010, we’d be remiss if we didn’t comment on it in some way. And we’re proud of the angles we took; rather than cover the news portion again, Siobhan O’Beirne analyzed it from the very interesting perspective of a professor which gave the incident a historical context that may not have been known. And Mike Fraiman’s piece profiling someone who writes essays for a living is a story strong enough to take advantage of the issue’s timeliness, but also hear from someone you don’t always hear from. I know we hadn’t, to that point.
This will be the sort of relationship that you’ll be seeing from our respective website and the print edition coverages from now on–while the immediacy of the web allows us to break the hard news itself, the print issue allows us to comment on the news in an interesting way.
Nevertheless, it’s a living project, so keep the comments coming in. The Watch is moving forwards in a lot of ways–online, Twitter, and in print–and we’re eager to hear criticism or comments on what you like and don’t like.

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