Revoke CFACT’s student group status

I learned something shocking from the Minnesota Daily last week about academic dishonesty at our university. While plagiarism in many classes will result in a failing course grade and a disciplinary report to the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity, if you plagiarize as a conservative student group applying for University of Minnesota funds, you will receive $18,700.

In last week’s Daily article “Final fees recs barely budge,” Student Services Fees Committee student groups chair Benjamin Beutel plainly admitted that plagiarism took place in CFACT’s application.

CFACT, or Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars of the University’s money over the past few years, and this time, they had requested $188,000 of student services fees.

But revelations about its dishonesty jeopardize the amount it will receive. Despite dramatic cuts across the board to many student groups, and despite the accusation that CFACT plagiarized the Minnesota Public Research Interest Group’s fees application, the fees committee decided to penalize the organization and allocate $18,700 to CFACT for next year.

As a graduate student and teacher, I am absolutely appalled by this decision.

This is not a minor offense. The oversight, seriousness and strict protocol involved in applying for fees is a pain, but the process itself is meant to illustrate the importance of being organized, efficient and thoughtful in spending student fees. CFACT was not organized, efficient or thoughtful in its application. It cheated its way into students’ pockets with another group’s work. This is a major affront to academic honesty.

Just as a student plagiarizing in a class would receive a zero on the assignment, CFACT, too, should receive zero funds from the SSFC for this year. Just as a student would have a report filed with the University and possibly be put on academic probation, CFACT should be watched extra carefully by the University’s oversight bodies from now on and should have its student group status revoked for the next year.

To some, this may seem extreme, but this type of reaction is not unheard of from the fees committee. For example, a few years ago, Students for a Democratic Society had its recognition as a student group revoked because we hung some banners during convocation.

Unless the University takes dramatic action now to punish CFACT’s act of plagiarism, it will only be illustrating its long-existing political bias. For years, left-leaning student groups and non-white cultural centers have been punished with a heavy hand, while right-wing groups on campus have been handled with kid gloves.

So, I ask: Is free speech, albeit disruptive, more serious a crime than plagiarism? What does this case show about the University’s real attitude toward plagiarism? What kind of “punishment” is an $18,700 check?

If only all of us could be punished like that — maybe then we could afford tuition.