October 5, 2006
Present: Chris Kline, Ken Clark, Gary McCall, Debbie Chee, Kevin David, Seth
Weinberger, Brad Tomhave, Mike Spivey, Danya Clevenger, Ben Bradley, Alison TracyHale, John Finney, Chris Kline, Wade Hands, Robert Taylor, Mark Martin, Greta
Austin, Pepa Lago-Grana, Jack Roundy
1. Minutes: The minutes of the September 21 meeting were approved as written.
2. Announcements: Tomhave reported that the Curriculum Committee is looking at
the Upper Division coursework degree requirement this fall. There are no current
proposals for changing that requirement, but the committee may recommend
modifications to clarify what is meant by coursework within and outside the major.
3. Petitions Committee (PC) Actions: Tomhave provided the following report of PC
actions since our last meeting. He added that the PC recommends a full committee
discussion on whether to maintain the practice of requiring drop codes during dropwithout-record period. He reported that several late add petitions included claims by
students that they could have registered on time had they not been waiting for drop
codes from instructors during that period.
17 (4 R)
13 (4 PPT)
51 (6 R)
No Action
4. Academic Honesty in the Digital Age: Kline opened the discussion by inviting a
preliminary exploration of the issues, to be followed by the creation of a subcommittee.
Finney described current policy as including two parts: an educational component and
a procedural component. He stated that the ASC had addressed and revised the
procedural component in recent years, and indicated that Roundy’s request for a
review of policy did not involve that component. As for the educational component, he
suggested that we begin by asking whether the recently added paragraph on the use of
the internet sufficiently addresses the sorts of plagiarism issues we are confronting
Weinberger thought the main limitation of our internet plagiarism text was that it
doesn’t cover unintentional plagiarism—the frequent, unattributed, generic web
borrowings that students bring into their papers. The problem for students is that
many of their web sources don’t clearly identify an author, and thus students assume
that attribution is not necessary. Martin concurred, saying that internet plagiarism is
often reducible to the issue of intellectual ownership. If students understand that
someone else has put a website together, that there IS an author (though the author is
not obvious), they may better understand the need for citation. There is this sense
among students that the internet is a public domain whose sources are to be used in
any way one wishes. So the students don’t understand the need for proper citation.
Austin added that there are gradations on a continuum between unintentional and
intentional borrowings. She argued that we should add a section to clarify proper
internet citation within the plagiarism text in the online Logger. Finney wondered if
there could be a new section in our policy statement, parallel to Anasazi section,
specifically covering internet use—including sources like Wikipedia.
David wondered whether we need to do more than simply amend the Logger. He
suggested that we add an academic honesty component to Prelude, or introduce it
somewhere else during orientation, to inform students better of our expectations at the
onset of their academic careers. Austin suggested incorporating this component in all
first-year seminars. Tracy Hale said she thought most seminars already include some
attention to plagiarism. Weinberger said he thought seminars brought in the
plagiarism topic instructor by instructor, rather than systematically with all students.
Austin supported David’s idea of adding an academic honesty component to Prelude.
Kline argued it’s important to clearly explain to students that proper citation
appropriately honors the work of those from whom one draws information. She then
asked student members for their experiences and views. Bradley said he came to
college already understanding the basic principles of proper citation, and added that
his seminar instructor took two days to explain it, so he would have thought we
already address the issue sufficiently. But now, as he sits on the Petitions
Subcommittee, plagiarism nonetheless seems to be the number one academic honesty
issue. Clevenger said she thought of this as an issue of personal responsibility. She
didn’t feel that a student claim of ignorance is credible or legitimate. She said she was
“all for” making our policies clearer, but affirmed that it’s a student’s responsibility to
understand the rules under which they are working.
McCall said he has observed students cutting-and-pasting from internet sources, then
making generic references to them without proper citation. That these students do
identify their sources (though improperly) indicates that they are not trying to get
away with something, but rather don’t know proper practice. Hale said she thought it
was not simply a matter of student understanding, but rather that students think our
citation rules are arbitrary and artificial, and certainly inconsistent with how they use
the Web. Martin made the point that our policy is written as “one size fits all.” He
argued that different disciplines have different issues of proper citation. So learning
how to cite properly in one field might not translate easily to another.
David made the point that Prelude is the perfect time to introduce students to proper
practice. It is students’ first academic experience with us, and they are curious about
our academic culture—making the topic primary at this time would communicate that
we take it very seriously. Kline added that the topic could be introduced in the context
of the question, “What does it mean to be part of an academic culture?” Chee argued
that we should not simply “inoculate” students with this message during Prelude, but
repeat and reinforce it in many of their early experiences with us. Drawing parallels
from other aspects of their student lives, she argued that our students are students of
“privilege” who need regular reinforcement of community values for them to stick. The
ASC discussion mirrors another currently going on in Student Affairs which embraces
many issues that arise with internet use. Student Affairs hopes their conversation
and the ASC conversation can be mutually reinforcing.
Weinberger reported on new plagiarism software acquired this year and now being
tested in the P&G Department. This powerful software does a similarity scan,
searching an exhaustive database of sources for textual overlap. He argued that this
software could be used as a teaching tool. If students were invited to run draft texts
through the software, they might observe which borrowings and paraphrases required
citation, learning thereby to distinguish proper uses and the need for citation in the
context of our policies. He argued for making the software an educational tool rather
than a punitive one. Martin said he thought that last-minute pressure often causes
students to cut corners, leading students to violations of our rules. So he endorsed
Weinberger’s suggested use of this software, in part because the process of draftchecking would curtail last-minute corner cutting. Martin said it would also be a good
idea to demonstrate to students the anonymized results of academic dishonesty cases
to show them how serious penalties can be for those who cheat.
Spivey suggested that as long as we are revising our academic honesty policy, we may
want to add examples of problem set plagiarism. He was particularly interested in
educating students to the distinction in mathematics between appropriate
collaborative learning and copying problem solutions. Finney suggested that the
Spivey additions might be incorporated into a broadened version of our Honesty in
Computer Programming section. Tomhave commented that biology faces similar
issues with appropriate collaborative learning in lab reports—collaboration should not
lead to copied reports.
Austin said she had read a survey reporting that some students have a sliding scale of
what’s OK and not OK in collaborating, so students sometimes feel themselves under
pressure to allow other students to copy, especially in instances of “minor”
importance. Relativist thinking often leads to “results-related” thinking. In various
ways Kline, David, and Austin made the point that a highly contextualized
understanding of academic honesty, of what can be borrowed legitimately, realized in
situation-dependent contexts, can result in uncomfortable moral ambiguity for
students. Zero tolerance is what we need to communicate, Martin said. Tracy Hale
added that because proper practice is often discipline-specific, we should look for
further coaching opportunities within disciplines.
Austin, speaking from her own undergraduate experience, suggested that we consider
adopting an Honor Code. The code could feature the promise that “this is my work” in
all assignments students turn in.
Kline asked if we were ready to appoint a subcommittee, both to review our policy and
how to explore better ways to educate the community. Martin, Weinberger, and
Tomhave volunteered to form the subcommittee. Chee volunteered to be the Student
Affairs liaison to the subcommittee. Kline invited our student members to join if they
could. She also invited other ASC members to send her an email if they were
interested in participating.
With this, we adjourned at 8:53.
Respectfully submitted by the ASC amanuensis,
Jack Roundy