Faculty prepare for plagiarism review

Maria Nann

Kent State Faculty Senate will launch a Commission on Academic Integrity to examine the university’s policies on student plagiarism, cheating and other forms of academic dishonesty.

Last year, Faculty Senate members heard a report about academic integrity issues at Kent State, which outlined several key practices the university lacks.

An Associate and Assistant Deans subcommittee explained that Kent State lacked several practices that were developing at other universities. Among these were statements of academic integrity (or honor codes), specific policies regarding academic integrity and standard procedures for handling incidents of plagiarism.

“The senate took this report very seriously,” Faculty Senate chairman Tom Janson said, “and (it) voted to authorize the Faculty Senate Executive Committee to form a senate commission to explore issues of student cheating and plagiarism and current university policies concerning academic complaints.”

Pete Goldsmith, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs, will chair the commission, which will consist of mostly faculty members and a few administrators.

The commission has two objectives, Goldsmith said. The first is to make sure academic integrity issues are handled consistently. Currently, there is no uniform policy or way to handle issues. The second objective is to look at how faculty and administrators talk about academic integrity to students.

“It’s something folks have been talking about for awhile,” Goldsmith said. “We’ll review the existing policies and try to come up with a coherent and cohesive policy because it’s so uneven right now.”

Associate sociology professor Susan Roxburgh said she’s always dealt with academic integrity issues herself.

“I think that happens quite a bit, which may be a function of the fact that most people don’t know and understand the policy,” she said. “I can see the downside of handling it internally, because if a student is a repeat offender, it’s never identified.

“But I often want to give people the benefit of the doubt.”

Goldsmith said the commission will look into any differences for handling one-time incidents or repeat offenders of academic integrity.

“Right now, there is no uniform way as to how issues are handled,” he said. “If a student is engaged in a pattern of repeated behavior, it might be far different than if it’s an isolated case.”

Roxburgh, a senate member, said she has dealt with academic integrity problems regarding where students retrieve their information. She’s even had a few instances of papers being copied.

“I think the commission is probably a good idea,” she said. “We’re looking at a whole different ball game than when the policy was formed because of all the new technologies. I tell my students not to use Wikipedia, but that doesn’t mean they don’t.”

By the senate’s Dec. 8 meeting, Goldsmith hopes to have the rest of the commission formed.

Roxburgh said it’s important for chairs to be informed of the policy so they can relate it to the faculty.

“A lot of this is about communication,” she said, adding that a commission might be able to spread the information about academic integrity policies at Kent State.

The commission will begin its work next semester, possibly making recommendations by the end of spring, Goldsmith said.

Contact academic affairs reporter Maria Nann at [email protected].