The Kenyon Collegian published an article that covered a recent increase in plagiarism cases that has led to an evaluation of policy at Ohio’s Kenyon College. Considered one of the more elite liberal arts schools in the country, professors and staff members for the small student population of sixteen hundred discovered a total of 17 cases for the Academic Infractions Board to review during the 2010/2011 school year, near double the amount from the previous year.
Half of the students involved in the cases were first year students, which may have accounted for a number of cases of “unintentional” plagiarism. Administrators look to this statistic as evidence a change in policy or better training on the subject. One such change would be the establishment of a new level of evaluation with the associate provost before having the case brought forward to a hearing. This would give students an opportunity to avoid having charges on their record for unintentional plagiarism offenses. It would also lighten the workload for the AIB.
The Chair of the AIB, philosophy professor Yang Xiao, is in favor of the change, claiming that the increase in cases has made serving on the board comparable to teaching an additional class. An evaluation at the provost level would eliminate much of the burden on what is essentially a volunteer regulatory body. According to Xiao, the changes would be “mainly procedural,” but would streamline the way that cases are brought forward for a hearing. The hope is that a more thorough examination will eliminate some cases, exonerate the innocent, and provide more substantial evidence against the guilty.
The current procedure for those accused of plagiarism involves a series of steps:
- The first step is a report from the professor to the department chair
- The department chair then reports it to the AIB Chair and the Dean of Academic Advising and Support
- The latter two then meet with the student and determine whether or not the case will require a hearing
With the new procedure being proposed, one or more of these steps would be eliminated. The associate provost would have more say in what was carried forward.
According to legal studies professor Ric Sheffield, the current associate provost, Kenyon’s selectivity and the pressure placed on first year students is what is causing the rise in plagiarism cases. “Most students cheat because they are pressed for time,” he said in an interview with the Kenyon Collegian. “They panic and get sloppy. Desperate people do desperate things.” Sheffield feels that instances of plagiarism among first year students are so high that a policy change needs to happen soon.
In addition to changing the way that the investigatory and discipline procedures are structured, Kenyon College is also working on promoting more awareness of its plagiarism policies. The current plagiarism policy is read to first years at student orientation; a time where students are often quite distracted with going to university for the first time. In addition, professors are not known to cover these policies thoroughly when they distribute their course materials. Both of these procedures are under review.
Martinez, Lili. "After Increase in Hearings, Plagiarism Policy to Change." The Kenyon Collegian. May 4th, 2012. http://www.kenyoncollegian.com/news/after-increase-in-hearings-plagiarism-policy-to-change-1.2867774?pagereq=1#.T7LKKVJr21w
Kenyon College. "Compliance, Academic Infractions, and Grievances." http://documents.kenyon.edu/provost/Chapter14Compliance.pdf
Kenyon College. "About Kenyon." www.Kenyon.Edu. http://www.kenyon.edu/about.xml