All Posts Tagged With: "University of King’s College"
David Purdy is an instructor at King’s in Halifax
Like many great online discoveries, it was boredom that led David Purdy to Wikipedia in 2006. Six years later, fewer than 50 people have created more articles than him. Purdy, a Haligonian raised in Paradise, N.L., has more than 4,500 articles and 130,000 edits to his name.
Purdy was on an engineering work term in Calgary, Alta. when he first came across the free encyclopedia. “It was the peak of the oil boom and there were drive-by hirings,” he says. “My supervisor was constantly getting promoted and being replaced by someone else. No one really cared about the work term student,” he adds. “At the point where I was really bored out of my mind and could not find any work for anyone to give me to do, I discovered Wikipedia.”
After four years at Memorial University he transferred into English literature. “When [engineers] look at something they want to know how it works. When I look at things,” he says, “I’m more interested in the etymology of the words used to describe the thing or the history of the thing.”
Dalhousie and King’s students show us their fall fashion
Photographer Jessica Darmanin is touring Atlantic Canada with an eye on campus fashion. First up, Dalhousie University and King’s College, where the kids are staying cool on student budgets. High-waisted pants are in—and one of these ladies got hers at Value Village. If you’re wondering where to buy Genevieve’s shades, don’t bother; they’re hand-me-downs from Dad. Lesson to first-years: raid your parents’ closets at Thanksgiving. Next stop: Memorial & St. Francis Xavier style.
Share your campus style. Tweet us a photo to @maconcampus or post one on our Facebook wall. You could be featured in an upcoming post!
Update: Kashmala Fida found safe in Truro
Update on July 13 at 9 a.m.: Truro Police say Fida was found in good health at a local home on Thursday evening around 5 p.m.
Kashmala Fida, 21, hasn’t been seen her since she dropped her mother off at work on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. at Colchester Regional Hospital. Her mother’s car, which she had been driving, was found in the hospital parking lot.
Insp. Rob Hearn of Truro Police told Halifax’s Chronicle Herald newspaper that “there’s nothing suspicious.” Still, they would like people to call 902-895-5351 if they see the five-foot-seven, 128 pound South Asian woman.
Originally from Pakistan, Fida worked with charities such as Even Wars Have Limits, a Red Cross group dedicated to protecting victims of war. She can discussed her volunteerism in this video.
Many teens aren’t interested in driving
This summer, Sarah Mohammed is going on a road trip. She and three of her friends plan to drive from Montreal, where they live, to the Okanagan Valley. “We’re going to work on some orchards and vineyards in the Interior of B.C.,” says Mohammed, 23. The trip is to mark her recent graduation from the University of King’s College, in Halifax. “I just finished school and I want to do something different,” she says. But on the long drive west, Mohammed won’t be taking any shifts behind the wheel—she doesn’t have a driver’s licence. “Oh, I won’t actually be driving. I’m just being a leech,” she jokes.
Victory for student groups
A majority of university presidents in the U.S. (55 per cent of them) say that plagiarism has increased in the past 10 years. Of those, 89 per cent blame the Internet, says a new study by Pew.
Many universities have fought back by using software like Turnitin, which forces students to upload their papers to be scanned against a database of published works, before their professors grade them. If passages appear to have been copied, the professor is informed and may investigate.
But profs at Dalhousie University learned this week that they no longer have access to the software, in part because papers were being stored on U.S. servers against the school’s wishes, Dwight Fischer, the school’s Chief Information Officer told the Toronto Star.
Enforcement of the rules should be strict but not so harsh as many fear.
A little while ago, I expressed interest in the position of President of King’s College in Halifax. Sadly–perhaps they were reading this blog– they expressed no interest in me. But if I had become President there, one of the first things I would have done is have a good look at the plagiarism policy.
Recently King’s came under fire for its handling of widespread plagiarism in its Foundation Year Programme, whereby some students were punished only with reduced grades on their papers. Obviously, King’s doesn’t want my advice, but it raises a question that is often overlooked in discussions of plagiarism at universities. What should the punishments be?
In the popular imagination, plagiarism carries exceedingly heavy penalties, often expulsion and perhaps some kind of public shaming ritual. In reality, punishments are usually much lighter. Indeed, in over 20 years studying and working at universities, I have never known a single student who was expelled for plagiarism. It might happen, but not often.
In fact, many professors are reluctant to pursue charges of plagiarism at all, either because they fear the student will be punished too harshly, or they think the charge will lead to a long bureaucratic and legal rigamarole that just isn’t worth it. Having a clear and reasonable punishment policy would help in this regard.
So where is the right balance? Somewhere between nothing and expulsion. Let’s consider this in a little more detail.
It seems clear to me that simply having a student rewrite the paper is grossly insufficient. There’s an old joke to the effect that a man who steals a horse cannot be found “not guilty provided he returns the horse.” Why not? Because whether he makes amends or not, a crime has still been committed. With plagiarism, the violation of the rules itself must be addressed, not just the result of the violation.
Similarly, only deducting marks is not strong enough, either, because it fails to recognize the seriousness of the offense. For reasons that I have addressed elsewhere, plagiarism is not simply a matter of misunderstanding an arbitrary convention. It runs contrary to the whole process of higher education. Consequently, plagiarism cannot be treated in the same way as one treats margins that are too wide or a font that is the wrong size or a sentence that runs on.
Minimally then, a plagiarized assignment should receive a grade of zero, recognizing that the student has violated a basic principle of academic discourse. Such a punishment seems fair for a first offense. It sends a clear message, but it does not unreasonably hobble a student who has learned the lesson. But if we are counting offenses, cases of plagiarism must be reported to the administration which must, in turn, keep track of how many offenses a student has committed.
For a second offense, a student should get a zero in the course in question. This punishment is in line with simple justice: a second offense is worthy of a harsher punishment than the first because the offender should have known better and should have reformed after the first time. The university should also consider including a notation on the student’s transcript to the effect that the grade of zero was given for academic dishonesty. Such a notation would serve as fair warning to any potential graduate or professional program that the student has refused to play by the rules on more than one occasion.
A third offense should result in some kind of suspension or expulsion from the university. The penalty would serve as a deterrent to students who might adopt cheating as a general strategy, would assure that wider community that the university values academic integrity, and would remove chronic offenders (who take up valuable time from teachers and staff) from the system. The suspension or expulsion for academic dishonesty should be noted on the transcript as well.
I have a feeling that most students would see such a regime as fair and reasonable. As I mentioned above, I suspect that most students think the policies are already harsher than this. My own august institution has something like this now (partly because I helped draft the policy).
As for faculty, they are responsible for ensuring that plagiarism has been fully explained to their students. A boilerplate reference to the academic calendar is not enough. Similarly, faculty must agree to take their university’s policies seriously, particularly when it comes to reporting infractions. Failure to report plagiarism means that a student can offend multiple times without facing serious consequences. Professors may feel they are being generous to the student, but such favours to individuals come at the cost of the integrity of the entire institution and thus to the whole student body. I have heard more than one faculty member say, “I didn’t become a professor to be the plagiarism police.” Well, actually, you did.
Administrations bear some responsibility, too. To be fair, they must have a clear and accessible route for students to appeal if they feel the charge of plagiarism was unwarranted. At the same time, administrators must ensure that all faculty understand the policy and remind them that following academic policy is a responsibility of their employment. Faculty who overlook plagiarism should be disciplined just as surely as if they never showed up to class. At the same time, universities should assure faculty members that they will have the full support of the administration when they do report academic dishonesty in the unlikely event of a lawsuit. Anything less, and faculty members may worry that they will be on the hook for legal costs should the case end up in court.
No university can be credible without a commitment to academic integrity, and dealing with plagiarism is central to that commitment. It begins with a fair policy conscientiously enforced.
Photo: Getty Images
This is The Hour Hand’s 100th post! You gotta like that!
Of course students should be punished but it isn’t uniquely offensive
My first reaction to the minor plagiarism scandal at King’s was to denounce the university for being soft, flabby, and altogether unconcerned with academic standards. How could the harshest punishment be a mere fail of a single assignment? Surely the university can no longer defend not subscribing to plagiarism detection software because it has a “bond of trust” with its students.
Don’t they realize that cheaters are narcissistic and quite possibly psychopathic? Have they not read that more than half of university students already admit to plagiarizing? Why would a respectable institution like King’s not want to draw a line instead of administering a series of wrist taps? Can’t they see their degrees are now worthless and no one will ever hire their graduates?
Then I had a cup of tea.
Turns out my instincts had less to do with any objective understanding of the case than with the fact that I only recently left university where I had spent the better part of a decade. Those were years where I had no choice but to abide by the rules of the academy, from meeting deadlines to learning obscure citation styles, to leaving any soapbox I might be standing on at the door.
And rules against plagiarism are just that, rules. They might be particularly important rules, and no doubt rules that should be enforced, but when isolated, it is hard to see what exactly it is about plagiarism that makes it uniquely offensive.
The typical explanation is that plagiarism involves “intellectual theft” but when applied to students, as opposed to, say, artists, the analogy falls apart. Professors who copy another’s work when submitting a paper to a journal, may be depriving another of prestige, respect, or research funding. There is a real identifiable harm to another individual.
Students who plagiarize in most cases aren’t depriving anyone of anything, except maybe the self-respect of an embarrassed professor who might have been fooled into giving a student an undeserved grade.
Todd’s counterfeiting analogy is sharper. The value of money is only reliable so long as it is real money. The same goes for grades. Grades are based on the assessment of a student’s performance, and if students don’t do the work they cannot be properly assessed. But the same might be said for enforcing deadlines, using accepted research methods, being a stickler for spelling and grammar, and other demands aimed at instilling in students the importance of academic rigour.
We are still left with the question of what makes plagiarism particularly wrong. If students cannot be said to be stealing, and if ensuring students are properly assessed applies to a range of academic criteria, is there anything that makes plagiarism special?
I think Stanley Fish had the right idea when he wrote “Plagiarism Is Not a Big Moral Deal.” Whether or not a work is authentic matters to those initiated in a particular setting. It is a guild concept intended to regulate and enforce how scholars, or journalists for that matter, should conduct themselves and how their accomplishments are to be measured. Handing in original work matters because professors say it should.
In other contexts, passing off someone else’s work as your own does not matter, and might actually be encouraged. When preparing reports for their ministers, government bureaucrats typically help themselves freely to the work of their colleagues without giving credit. No one talks about plagiarism scandals in the federal bureaucracy, unless the prime minister is implicated.
With that in mind, it is unsurprising that students, particularly first-year students as in the King’s case, plagiarize. Some of them might have been motivated by laziness or self-entitlement and there is something to that explanation. More likely many are still just learning the rules.
Expulsion not even on the table, university criticized for being ‘lenient’
At least 15 students in the Foundation Year Programme at the University of King’s College have been accused of passing off someone else’s work or idea as their own. Program director Peggy Heller said the questionable papers are all responses to the same text: The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. She didn’t give details or say exactly how many students will be facing a hearing.
The students are scheduled to meet with Heller and Stephen Kimber, the academic integrity officer, on Monday and Tuesday.
During the hearings, students will have a chance to state their case. Heller said students are free to bring an advocate, such as a student or a lawyer, if they are uncomfortable speaking for themselves.
There are around 300 students enrolled in FYP. After a lecture on Friday morning, Heller told them no one would be expelled. “The worst consequence that would be contemplated at this point would be failing the paper,” she said, “and then lesser ones would be having marks deducted.”
If found guilty of plagiarism, it would be a first offence, Heller said.
Kimber said these are the first allegations of plagiarism at King’s this year. “It’s not like this is happening regularly.”
This was the fifth paper of the term and it was due two days after the FYP midterm. Every essay assignment includes a description and a warning about plagiarism.
FYP student Sam Tait said it’s “pretty bogus” that a student caught plagiarizing wouldn’t face expulsion. He said students have known the consequences of plagiarism since high school. “I don’t think there should ever be more than one offence,” said Tait. “I understand someone making a mistake and not really understanding that paraphrasing is plagiarism, but to say that they’re going to be lenient on first-year students, they’re not really following protocol.”
According to the intellectual honesty section of the King’s calendar and the FYP Handbook, the penalties for plagiarism “may include assignment of a failing grade, suspension or expulsion.”
Generally, when a student is suspected of plagiarism at King’s, the marking professor will type in the suspicious phrase or idea in an online search engine like Google. Unlike Dalhousie University, King’s does not use Blackboard or Turnitin.com, a plagiarism detector.
Heller said these online programs take away from the close relationship between students and professors that King’s is known for. “This would ruin the bond of trust,” she said. “I was talking to a tutor today about it and he said it just changes the way you read papers because instead of thinking this is what the student is thinking you start thinking oh, is this really the student’s idea.”
But these allegations have forced Heller to rethink the university’s policy.
Implementing Blackboard and Turnitin.com would make communication between professors and FYP students easier and allow King’s to create a permanent bank of papers so professors would be able to compare essays from year to year, she said.
FYP is known for its intense curriculum and high admission standards. It is geared toward students who love to read and write and “enjoy intellectual dialogue,” according to the King’s website.
In last year’s National Survey of Student Engagement, FYP students ranked themselves the happiest and most content with their first-year university experience, compared to students at other Canadian universities.
Despite at least 15 allegations of plagiarism, Stephen Kimber said he believes that King’s reputation remains intact. “I think it’s good that people know that these things will get flagged.”
This story has been republished with permission from unews.ca where it originally appeared Dec 3, 2010.