The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Plagiarism policies lack consistency across district

By Joshua Knopp/managing editor

Faculty members agree that plagiarism is a problem among TCC students, but there is no agreement on how big a problem and what violators should face.

From the TCC student handbook, “Plagiarism is defined as presenting as one’s own the ideas or writings of another without acknowledging or documenting the source(s).”

The handbook goes on to say that the consequences for scholastic dishonesty (which also includes cheating on a test and collusion) may include zeros on the assignment and/or requiring the student to redo the assignment. Serious cases are sent to the dean of student development services for disciplinary action.

The handbook’s language has given rise to a number of different discipline systems across the campuses.

NE English department chair Eric Devlin argued in favor of his campus’ system.

“Work that’s … deemed plagiarized will be given no credit and no chance to make it up,” Devlin said.

This works, he says, because all NE English instructors are required to grade their courses such that no single assignment can cause failure on its own, even with a zero.

In addition to discipline systems that have developed, preventative measures have been created to stop plagiarism before it starts.

“We … try to individualize our assignments to such an extent that plagiarism would be difficult for the student,” said Angela Chilton, NW English department chair. “If I require students to answer my specific questions or explore my specific concepts in an essay, they will have a difficult time buying or finding a paper online that meets those requirements.”

Chilton discussed a wide variety of other methods as well. Having students write in class, for instance, provides an assignment that is verifiably their composition and gives the teacher an understanding of the student’s writing style. Another method is to grade each step in the writing process, forcing students to get a topic approved, then an outline and a rough draft before doing the essay itself.

With all these methods in place, why is plagiarism still a problem?

“It’s been more frequent each year than it was the year before,” Devlin said. “We know it [the NE discipline system] works in individual cases, but each semester new students come into Comp I …”

TR English department chair Jim Schrantz said one of the primary causes of plagiarism could be students coming out of high school thinking that plagiarizing is OK. But Schrantz said pushing the responsibility down to high schools isn’t an option.

“Colleges believe it should be taught in high school. High schools believe it should be taught in elementary. Elementary schools believe they should learn it in the womb,” Schrantz said. “Someone is going to have to take ownership of their education.”

Schrantz said college was the best place to do that because, while a high school education is guaranteed and students can always come back if they fail out, college is a privilege that can be taken away.

He also discussed at length the ambiguity in the handbook’s definition of plagiarism. It is important to distinguish between the student who edits two Wikipedia articles together and the student who simply doesn’t cite sources properly, a distinction the handbook does not make.

A committee has formed on TR Campus to discuss this problem.

“Right now, we’re just trying to get all the information, talk to all the various people … just sort of an information-gathering stage of the committee right now,” said Macario Romero, TR English assistant professor and committee chair.

Romero said the committee’s goal is not to affect change.

“We’re not looking to change things. We’re just hoping to open up conversation,” he said. “If that conversation leads to change, that’s something else entirely.”

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