October 29 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 33  

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Student fails -before plagiarizing

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

A university student is failing a course in an attempt to protest the use of an online plagiarism detecting tool.

When Jesse Rosenfeld, an arts student at McGill University, refused to hand in his essays through turnitin.com, an electronic plagiarism checking service, he received a mark of zero despite the fact he handed a hard copy of the assignment to the professor, confirmed Eric van Eyken, VP-finance for the Arts Undergraduate Society of McGill.

"The professor announced at the beginning of the class that turnitin.com would be used -[Rosenfeld] told her he would not [submit his assignment through turnitin] and handed it in directly to her," explained van Eyken.

"Nobody is very happy about it. Arts students are [penalized] because they write more essays than any other faculty," van Eyken said, adding social science programs are part of the faculty of arts at McGill.

The student senators are bringing the issue up in their meetings and a panel debate will be held by the students' society to discuss it, van Eyken said. Rosenfeld is also being represented by the McGill Student Advocacy group.

The advocacy group declined to comment because of confidentiality agreements.

When asked if he agreed with Rosenfeld's reasons for refusing to use turnitin.com, van Eyken said yes, adding some students in the faculty of law also agreed.

"The AUS will support this student," van Eyken said.

"Western has been using turnitin.com for the past three years -we were the first university in Canada to use it," said Debra Dawson, director of Western's educational development office.

"[Turnitin.com's Web site] clearly states that the student retains intellectual property rights [and turnitin.com] cannot use essays for profit in any way," Dawson said in response to Rosenfeld's reasons for refusing to use turnitin.com.

Dawson said turnitin.com is used more as a deterrent to plagiarism than a way of catching cheaters, so it does not treat students as if they have already plagiarized, something Rosenfeld asserted.

Dawson explained it is fair to assume all assignments will be checked by professors for cheating anyway, so using turnitin.com is actually a more up front way of dealing with the problem. "It allows open and frank discussions about plagiarism," she said.

"It is unfortunate that we live in a time where professors are too overloaded to check assignments manually [for plagiarism]," said University Students' Council President Paul Yeoman.




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