By ERIC KLUMP AND THOMAS F. JOHNSON
In this era in which all of the world’s written works are a few keystrokes away, it’s not surprising that plagiarism has skyrocketed.
According to plagiarismcheckservice.com, plagiarism at the University of California-Berkeley increased by 744 percent from 1993 to 1997. Not so coincidentally, that was at the same time the Internet was becoming prominent on the world stage.
Pima Community College vice chancellors Aubrey Conover and Dee Lammers are tasked with plagiarism prevention and punishment at West Campus.
Conover, who deals directly with students who have been caught in the act, combats the problem by educating students on their mistakes and giving them a chance to learn, rather than taking quick, harsh action.
A “fair number” of students plagiarize at PCC, according to Conover.
“They don’t realize the impact it can have on their lives,” he said.
Conover said that, when caught, “most take the opportunity to change.”
Punishments are more serious with repeat offenders.
Lammers deals more with policy and other administrators, along with instructors.
She believes plagiarism is a problem at PCC, but “not any more than anywhere else.”
Lammers feels that some of Pima’s characteristics, like its small classes and established programs, make PCC adept in the interdiction and prevention of plagiarism.
“People aren’t suddenly more dishonest now than before. Humans are humans,” Lammers said.
Meg Files, chair of the West Campus English and journalism department, is taking action to curb the rising tide of plagiarism at Pima.
“[Plagiarism] has always been a challenge, but with today’s technology, it’s easier than ever,” Files said. “We’ve been getting tougher on it.”
Initially, Files said she didn’t think plagiarism was an issue for her department. But upon giving it more thought, she reconsidered.
“Maybe it is an issue for me, because I want to see students be truly educated, and that means using their own words,” Files said.
Punishments for plagiarism at Pima include receiving an F for the entire course, a formal code of conduct citation, and possible suspension or expulsion from the school.
Pima’s official policy on plagiarism states that the school will punish students found cheating.
Within her classroom, Files is taking steps to combat the practice, including:
• Writing tougher statements against plagiarism for all writing classes to make students aware of the school’s zero tolerance policy.
• Hanging a flyer in each classroom listing tips to help students avoid plagiarism, and letting them know what the consequences will be if they are caught cheating.
• Enforcing the aforementioned punishments for any act of plagiarism.
Files said students tend to make their plagiarism blatantly obvious.
Another instructor shared a story with Files about a student who ripped off poet Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” and handed it out to the entire class.
“Students have such busy lives that they run out of time and get desperate,” Files said.
“They don’t trust themselves, so instead of learning to write better, they resort to cheating.”