Should Students be Publically Humiliated for Plagiarism?
An instructor at Texas A & M International University was recently fired for his treatment of plagiarism in the classroom. According to the report on Inside Higher Ed, Loye Young informed his class that any acts of plagiarism would result in public humiliation in addition to any penalties given by the university. When he found six students engaging in academic dishonesty, he published their names on his course blog.
In my discussion of academic dishonesty with Courtney Campbell, we talked about plagiarism as a kind of moral harm against the academic community, disrupting bonds of trust and amounting to a kind of theft. On this issue, we agreed with Loye Young on the seriousness of the problem.
The question is whether the penalty of public humiliation, above and beyond the failing grades, is justified. At Oregon State, there is a procedure to follow in informing students of allegations of plagiarism. Students are usually given a chance to see the work and the evidence amassed by the instructor that led her/him to accuse the student. Based on that discussion, the case can be sent to the administration and the student may have the right to appeal. In addition to academic grade penalties, the student may have to attend workshops.
Its not clear that the students were given a chance to know about the finding of suspected plagiarism and had a chance to respond. From Loye Young's blog, it appears he completed the grading and posted their names almost immediately. This seems to me the wrong way to go about it. I often find it the case that students simply do not know what constitutes academic dishonesty, especially if they come from backgrounds in which they are the first to attend university. In those kinds of instances, there is an opportunity for education of academic standards. I've never hesitated to fail a student on an assignment for plagiarism, but I have sometimes not recommended further discipline if I felt, after a discussion with the student, that they were simply uninformed or ignorant. In other words, ignorance of the law is no excuse, but leniency in sentencing is sometimes called for.
Loye Young seems to think that shaming is an appropriate response to academic dishonesty. I assume the idea is that if plagiarism is a harm against the community, then the community should know how it was harmed and by whom ( a form of punishment not unfamiliar to our Puritan ancestors). Assuming that students had been informed about the policy beforehand in the course syllabus and the students had been informed that they had been caught in academic dishonesty, would public shaming be a just punishment?
Labels: higher education