Syllabi handed out at the start of each semester often include some reference to plagiarism and the punishment that stems from such writing violations, but the boundaries of what is and is not academic dishonesty are still unclear.
Each campus department handles possible plagiarism differently, said Robert Burford, student conduct officer in the Dean of Students Office. Some departments have a specified policy teachers should use. Others let faculty decide for themselves. No matter who makes the decision though, the policy should match up with UNM’s Academic Policy, he said.
“We want people to do their own work and not use anybody else’s work to portray as their own — basically cheating off others. They need to do their own work so we are not watering down the education here,” Burford said.
For spring 2014 there were 29 total incidents of plagiarism, up nine from the spring 2013 semester, he said. Information from Fall 2014 violations will not be available until later.
Ultimately, if there is a situation in which the student has plagiarized, it is up to the teacher on how they want to proceed, he said.
When academic dishonesty is reported, the Dean of Students Office sends an email to the student in question, to let them know the office has been notified, Burford said. On the second offense, the student has to meet with Burford and is either put on probation for at least a semester or is suspended.
Burford has been the student conduct officer for 13 years, and said when a student comes to him, he usually doesn’t see them again.
There is no value in cheating, he said.
Katherine Liljestrand, an English alumna, also doesn’t see the value in plagiarism. She said she never thought about plagiarism because of the high risks involved. It isn’t fair to the students who are doing the work, especially if the students cheating still get credit, she said.
“The point of writing, especially in English, is to be able to practice writing and if you plagiarize then you’re not practicing writing and you’re really not getting anything out of it,” she said.
Unfortunately, she did notice other students copying each other’s work in her online classes, she said, but never in the in-person classes. Although she said she doesn’t like the idea, she understands if a student is on a time crunch and needs to get the work in on time.
In a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, researchers found that a majority of plagiarism happens within the studies of English, history and social studies.
Liljestrand said she could see this in her literary classes.
According to Section 4.8 of the UNM Regent’s Policy, academic dishonesty is classified as, but not limited to, “dishonesty in quizzes, tests, or assignments; claiming credit for work not done or done by others; hindering the academic work of other students; misrepresenting academic or professional qualifications within or without the University; and nondisclosure or misrepresentation in filling out applications or other University records.”
While that seems vague, it is trying to be flexible, said Ilia Rodriguez, an associate professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism. She said she thinks this is because every situation should be taken by a case by case basis.
Rodriguez said the majority of the issues with plagiarism start with not understanding what it is.
“I think it is part of our job to define (plagiarism), and tell students what kinds of behaviors constitute as plagiarism,” she said.
Every student has a different interpretation of what plagiarism is, she said, and she works with them to help them understand that. She teaches freshmen all the way up to Ph.D. students.
Rodriguez also structures her class with strict guidelines in effort to stop plagiarism on the forefront, she said. In the event that it seems a student has plagiarized, Rodriguez said she takes the student aside and talks to them one on one about what happened.
If an assignment is a missing citation, she will not give a grade until that is added, she said. Rodriguez has never had to report a student to the Dean of Students Office.
Moriah Carty is the assistant culture editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @MoriahCarty.