Student fails -before plagiarizing
By Laura Katsirdakis
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
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
"[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
"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.