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The number of students found guilty of academic misconduct is on the rise despite UCSB’s efforts to end plagiarism.
In 2002-03 the university handled 27 cases of academic misconduct, including 14 cases of Internet plagiarism, 10 cases of non-Internet plagiarism and three cases of cheating during exams. There were 19 students found guilty of academic misconduct during the Spring and Summer of 2003, of which one was expelled, 16 were suspended and two were put on academic probation. Although this year’s statistics have not yet been compiled, the number of violations is expected to exceed that of last year.
Campus Conduct Educator, Brandon Brod said student academic misconduct has been particularly high this year. The university has recently received 10 new cases, all of which will most likely be punished by suspension. Brod said he attributes the increased amount of plagiarism to the Internet.
“These days students don’t plagiarize big books,” Brod said. “Now students just go to Google and type in their topic.”
Associate Dean of Students Joseph Navarro said the Internet encourages students to plagiarize because it provides such easy access to information.
“The Internet is a good tool but it has become a shortcut,” Navarro said.
Instructors who catch a student cheating or plagiarizing have the option of dealing with the violation informally on a student to instructor level. According to the university’s report form for academic misconduct, an instructor may reprimand a student by assigning additional work, lowering the student’s grade or offering a re-examination.
Instructors may also report the case to the Student-Faculty Conduct Committee (SFCC) if they do not feel like dealing with the violation. The committee, composed of students and faculty, reviews all reports of student misconduct. Brod said consequences of plagiarism or cheating range from a warning letter to suspension. On average, half of the students found guilty are suspended for two quarters and 14 percent are suspended for three quarters.
Brod said UCSB’s policy regarding plagiarism is lenient in comparison with some other schools that operate on an “honor code” policy. At these schools, students found guilty of academic misconduct are expelled and are unable to transfer the credits they have already earned to other schools.
Computer science and engineering Professor Eliot Jacobson said he thinks UCSB should employ stricter consequences for students caught plagiarizing.
“Plagiarism devalues the product of the institution and teachers don’t want to deal with it,” Jacobson said. “It’s not in our job description to be policemen.”
The university has proposed a policy that would require instructors to report all incidents of plagiarism directly to SFCC, rather than giving them the option to deal with the students themselves.
Navarro said he hopes the new reforms will help stop the increasing amount of plagiarism and encourage students to take responsibility for plagiarism.
Brod said this policy would be fairer for students who often have to deal with different expectations from different professors.
“Some departments are more consistent than others,” he said.