Committee on Intellectual Integrity
Minutes of March 19, 2008

Present: Bozak, Clendinning, Jalife, Murphy, Pretzat

* Note of recent NPR article and query on SUNYJA mailing list over the use of performance enhancing drugs - is it cheating to take a drug to help you cram and take an exam? See the NPR article at

* Also, as a follow-up to the story about the Ryerson student who ran a study group on Facebook who faced expulsion, the student was not expelled but was given a zero for the assignment and a disciplinary note placed in his file. The idea of study groups, Facebook and cheating is being considered for a panel discussion during a college hour later this semester.

* Policy issues in the use of PDSs (Plagiarism Detection Services):

  • If archiving of student papers does not happen, all the current legal issues go away - copyright and FERPA. Until these issues are decided by the courts, we should simply avoid any archiving. There is some evidence that archived papers play a very tiny part in any report of possible copying so the overall effectiveness of the tool is not seriously affected.
  • PDS can be a teaching tool rather than a policing tool, and should be presented as such. Faculty will also need to work with and educate students in how to interpret the results of a paper submitted to a PDS.
  • Will faculty be somewhat complacent and further removed from working with student writing?
  • Will faculty treat results as gospel (either it is plagiarized or it isn't) because it is a technology tool even though the tool is a text matching tool and does not actually address (and cannot address) whether the work is plagiarized?
  • Faculty should have training before being allowed to use the tool.
  • Use of the PDS should be voluntary on the part of the faculty member. How about on the part of the student?
  • Students should have unlimited use of the PDS while faculty should be using the tool on an "as needed" basis rather than have all papers run through the service as some sort of fishing expedition
  • Is it educationally useful? There really isn't any good data available to us right now to answer this. But if it is just a tool, it likely cannot hurt and might even help.
  • Faculty training should not only address the use of a PDS and how to interpret its output but should also include information on how to structure a course/assignment to minimize plagiarism
  • It won't address many reasons for plagiarism, including students who cheat because of time pressures (family/work/school conflicts, poor overall time management skills, etc.). It also does not address poor assignments given by faculty  - same paper due for many years, paper does not have intermediate goals (annotated bibliography, outlines, draft sections, etc.) nor assignments that aren't current or "authentic".
  • Why use PDS? Without an honor code in place we have an obligation to protect the rights of those who don't cheat.

Respectfully submitted,

-David Bozak


 Last Updated: 3/19/08