McGill student gets
By Marshall Bellamy
A McGill University student protesting turnitin.com, an online
plagiarism-detecting service, will not be required to submit
his essay after the university allowed the paper to be marked
despite his professor’s original criteria.
“I think the incident of McGill has set a precedent,” said
Ian Boyko, national chairperson of the Canadian Federation
of Students, which played a large role in lobbying the university
for Jesse Rosenfeld, the student who refused to submit his
Boyko said he hopes the move by the university in Rosenfeld’s
favour will send messages across Canada to students who have
ethical problems turning in an essay to a private company. “Let’s
hope it opens up some dialogue,” he added.
According to Boyko, the issue of plagiarism-detecting websites
is symptomatic of the under-funding of post-secondary education. “If
this is going to be a short cut, then I think it poses a serious
Rosenfeld could not be reached for comment.
Morton Mandelson, associate dean of academic and student affairs
at McGill, said by law he could not comment on the specific
case. “We conducted a trial — we don’t prohibit
turnitin.com with any of our [professors].”
McGill has formed a committee to draft recommendations about
a plagiarism policy for the university’s senate, Mandelson
said, adding the committee is taking comments and concerns
from faculty and staff. “The plan is to have appropriate
guidelines by the next academic year,” he said.
“We are trying to address the whole issue of plagiarism,” stated
Vivian Choy, VP-university affairs for the Students’ Society
of McGill University, citing the role of the SSMU was to address
concerns over the policy side of the issue.
“The SSMU opposes the mandatory use of [turnitin.com] — but
I do think some choice should be a factor in all of this,” she
said, noting a legal assessment of turnitin.com may allow everyone
to better address the issue.
Choy pointed out the committee writing the plagiarism policy
received a summary of the situation from the SSMU, which included
research from faculty and students collected by the SSMU. “It’s
admirable the university is tackling the issue,” she
“[Turnitin.com] is not something we’ve enforced
on anyone — there’s been positive support for it,” said
Western’s provost and VP-academic Greg Moran.
“This is a tool to help faculty prevent students from
cheating,” he said. “It’s deterrent more
than anything else.”
Moran explained that turnitin.com has been used at Western
for the last three years, longer than any other Canadian university,
although there is not a problem with plagiarism on campus. “It’s
no more a problem here than it is anywhere else, and it’s
difficult to detect more than ever,” he noted.