Vice chancellor discusses plagiarism at UCCS

April 25, 2016

Kyle Guthrie
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According to a 2011 study from the Journal of Excellence and Ethics, 38 percent of college students surveyed admitted to paraphrasing segments of another person’s paper into their own without footnoting it, and 14 percent admit to falsifying or fabricating a bibliography.

But despite this, plagiarism cases at UCCS are reportedly low.

“In three years of operation, we have had one case (of plagiarism),” said David Moon, associate vice chancellor for Undergraduate Education and Academic Planning.

“I don’t have any sense that there are departments that have either students who commit this more often, or where the faculty are particularly diligent in finding students who have done so.”

Moon is responsible for convening the student academic honor code committee when needed in order to define what constitutes plagiarism. He also oversees where faculty report and archive individual cases.

“(Plagiarism) really comes down to the idea of using other people’s work without acknowledging it,” said Moon.

“We don’t have a specific threshold; individual faculty make the determination in their own courses. The bigger issue is whether or not you have taken someone else’s work.”

Students complete work in open spaces in the library. Ben Patzer | The Scribe
Students complete work in open spaces in the library.
Ben Patzer | The Scribe

When a student is discovered cheating, it is up to the individual faculty member to determine whether an offence has been committed, and what level of punishment is to be taken.

“The faculty member has the complete authority to make the finding,” said Moon. “That’s not the final word, but they have the authority to make it in the first place. Anything up to failing the course, they have the ability to impose. That decision cannot be appealed.”

While students cannot appeal the sanction, Moon said they have the right to appeal the finding of the faculty member.

Several tools are available for teachers to detect plagiarism such as SafeAssign (which is automatically integrated into BlackBoard).

Moon said a lot of the best detection comes from common sense and personal experience.

“I have to say that the cases I have had where the alarm bells went off… I immediately knew just from reading the paper… such as an abrupt change of style. Personal experience plays into it.”

Moon said that the cases of plagiarism at other universities are far greater than UCCS.

“I was at the University of Texas in Austin,” Moon said, “and it was rampant and well organized. You had to be vigilant all the time in making sure that you didn’t make it easy to cheat.”

“When I came here (in 1992) I found a very different atmosphere.”

Moon said he believes there is still plagiarism at UCCS but that the atmosphere makes for less cases.

“My gut tells me that we have noticeably less cases, and my guess is that we are somewhere in between (other universities).”