Our view: Former doctoral candidate’s lawsuit provides a lesson

DKS Editors

Summary: Pfeiffer-Fiala’s lawsuit against Kent State shows the importance of understanding university policy on plagiarism.

As the litigation between Carrie Pfeiffer-Fiala and Kent State begins, the details from this story should garner attention from other Kent State students. Pfeiffer-Fiala, a student like us, was dismissed as a doctoral candidate on claims of plagiarism on a rough draft of a dissertation. The dismissal, as it stands, lowers her employability and chance of receiving a doctorate elsewhere.

But in the lawsuit against the school, Pfeiffer-Fiala is fighting back, claiming that she didn’t know she had plagiarized and that the school has damaged her reputation. And the damage is real. Throughout our schooling, we have been repeatedly exposed to the consequences of plagiarism. In junior high and high school, the threat seemed mild enough: a failed assignment. The threat grew as we did. And finally, the threat looms largest today as we progress through higher education and graduate studies.

While we’re not sure if she actually ignored the rules and copied someone else’s work intentionally, her case highlights just how complex plagiarism can become. Pfeiffer-Fiala claims she didn’t know that a failure to cite sources on a rough draft was just as punishable as a failure to cite them on a final draft.

As a doctoral candidate, plagiarism — even as an accusation — can crush career plans. This consequence also can harm any undergraduate student. Employers want to hire us because of our work, not someone else’s.

We feel that no matter the outcome of Pfeiffer-Fiala’s lawsuit, students need to know the rules and policies of their university. By understanding the by-laws of our university, we increase our chances for success. We spend thousands of our dollars a year at this university and we must protect this investment. This investment is protected after we, as students at a larger public university, educate ourselves on the legal protections and assistances available.

If we fail to learn from Pfeiffer-Fiala’s story, we fail to better ourselves as students at Kent State.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.