October 29 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 33  

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Jesse, Turn It In!

There's idealism, there's ultra-leftist ideology and then there's downright irrationality. Sometimes, the first two coincide in such a way the third becomes an inevitable byproduct. Such is the case with McGill arts student Jesse Rosenfeld and his battle against turnitin.com.

After refusing to submit an economic development essay to turnitin.com, Rosenfeld was given a big, fat zero on the assignment. His negotiations with McGill Student Advocacy are currently in progress, but regardless of the outcome, Rosenfeld's point has been made: he's not going to be a slave to 'The Man' or 'The Machine'.

Why would he refuse to submit his essay, though? Is it because he plagiarized the assignment and didn't want to get caught? Perhaps he's just thinking about the future and how turnitin.com will prevent his evil plan to spend his university career copying his friends' work.

According to Rosenfeld, however, neither is the case. Rather, the problem lies in the fact turnitin.com violates students' intellectual property rights; that it assumes guilt right off the bat and it coerces students into providing profit for a private company.

Perhaps these arguments could convince a naive first-year kid or even a devoted fourth-year MIT student, but outside of that, who is Rosenfeld kidding?

Firstly, the turnitin.com Web site explicitly states their company does not own the intellectual rights to any of the work that is turned in. As one would rationally expect, submission of a paper does not equate to transferral of intellectual rights. Not to mention the fact that by flagging copycats, turnitin.com is actually protecting the intellectual property of everyone who uses the service.

Secondly, at the university level, it is extremely important to ensure students are actually earning their degrees, rather than simply cheating their way through. Long before the online database was conceived, professors were equipped with numerous alternative methods of checking for plagiarism. Turnitin.com simply provides a quicker and more effective way of pinpointing plagiarists and ensuring credit is not given where it's not due.

Furthermore, why should it matter turnitin.com turns a profit? The company provides a service; it would be a bit ridiculous if they didn't generate profits. Student fees are directed toward all sorts of things, from Westernizers to frosh T-shirts to services like TV Western. Most students would likely agree that weeding the cheaters out of our university community is one of the better uses for these fees.

While Rosenfeld may be admired for standing up for his beliefs, there's a fine line between idealism and idiocy.



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