Deans to focus on plagiarism

In response to concerns about plagiarism on campus, Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences are teaming up next week to fight irresponsible research.

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey and Graduate School Dean Jon Butler will kick off the first-ever Academic Integrity Awareness Week this Tuesday, Oct. 24 with an informal joint keynote address. The speech will focus on academic honesty and plagiarism in the 21st century and whether or not the problem is increasing, Butler said. During the week, which ends Oct. 31, graduate school departments will hold sessions where faculty and students will focus on research ethics in specific disciplines. Students and faculty said they believe the event could be useful, though they are unsure about the prevalence of plagiarism at Yale.

Butler said the idea for the Awareness Week stemmed from a number of cases that have come before the Executive Committees of both the College and the Graduate School, as well as general concerns about academic honesty resulting from recent nationwide press about student and faculty plagiarism.

“We would rather be proactive and bring this to the attention of our students, rather than having to be reactive and dealing with a lot more cases of dishonesty than we want,” he said.

Salovey said he was pleased when Butler asked the Dean’s Office to participate in the week-long event. A week focused on highlighting the complex issues involved in plagiarism and responsible research is crucial for students who have considerable resources and technology at their fingertips, he said.

“[The week] is important because, in many ways, issues of academic integrity are on everyone’s minds,” he said. “There have been some well publicized cases of student plagiarism in recent years, and the nature of academic honesty has changed in recent years due to the Internet era.”

Salovey said he thinks a conversation about conducting research ethically is necessary for Yale College students, since many more undergraduates are involved in research on campus.

English professor Fred Strebeigh said he has started asking his English 120 students to cut and paste all electronic reference information into the footnotes of their papers, in addition to using conventional citations. He said this technique is the “single biggest improvement” he has made in his teaching, because he can not only evaluate how his students incorporate evidence into their arguments, but also ensure they are not lifting information from the source itself.

But Strebeigh said he believes discussions with students should focus on the variety of sources used rather than only addressing issues of academic integrity.

“I encounter almost nothing that I would call a lack of academic integrity among the students that I teach,” he said. “I think the most interesting issue is not mere academic integrity, but turning the discussion of the use of sources into a discussion of the strongest and most ambitious use of sources in the service of a strong argument.”

Some students said that although a week in which students and faculty discuss plagiarism could be valuable and informative, they do not believe the issue is a pressing problem for Yalies.

“I don’t think I’ve known anyone that has [had problems with] plagiarism,” Joshua Block ’07 said. “I don’t think it’s that big of a problem.”

The awareness week is publicized on the graduate school Web site, which provides resources for students and faculty including information on proper citation methods and electronic plagiarism.

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