GC official: Many unintentionally plagiarize

Jenna Ross

Through her work, Debra Hartley finds that many University students who plagiarize do not have ill intent.

The General College writing center coordinator said most who copy text from another source without citing it do not understand that they are plagiarizing.

“They honestly don’t know what they’re doing is bad,” Hartley said.

The Office of Student Academic Integrity wants to change this, its staff said. With a new director and new outreach plan, the office is working to be

more proactive, educating students about cheating before they do so.

“We want people to be aware ahead of time about what scholastic dishonesty is and why it will hurt your academic career,” said Sharon Dzik, director of Student Judicial Affairs and the student academic integrity office.

Dzik, who has held the director position for approximately seven weeks, said the office will increase its outreach and education.

To do so, the office plans to add an employee with a student affairs and marketing background to its current four-person staff.

The office will also create a peer-educating program this fall to hold workshops with faculty and students about cheating.

“Those people we chose to be in the group, besides having squeaky clean records themselves, will also have a strong interest in honor,” Dzik said.

When students realize one person’s cheating affects everyone at the University, they become excited about creating an honor code, she said.

“A lot of my background is in student affairs, working with students,” Dzik said.

“And I think getting more students involved here would help.”

Established in fall 2001 after the Minnesota’s men’s basketball cheating scandal, the office was one recommendation by the Special Senate Committee on Academic Integrity – also known as the Clayton Committee – to promote academic integrity at the University.

The office, closely aligned with Student Judicial Affairs, provides the University with centralized reporting for cheating and academic dishonesty.

“Before us, the individual colleges would deal with cheating,” said Meredith McGrath, the office’s associate director.

By taking classes in various colleges, students’ cheating records could go unnoticed. Now, if a student has a history of cheating, the faculty will know.

“There’s a central location,” McGrath said. “It’s more consistent.”

The office also works to simplify the process of reporting cheating, McGrath said.

“We want to make sure that it’s not time consuming for professors,” she said. “The easier we make it, the more people who will report it.”

The office said it currently handles approximately two cases a week, but the number varies.

“It goes in waves,” McGrath said. “Now with midterms, I’m sure we’ll see the numbers increase again.”