Plagiarism leads to immense consequences

Rosa Parks
Social Media Manager 

Turnitin.com is an online application that detects plagiarism in work turned in via the site. Photo from turnitin.com

“Cheating” is a word that has been thrown around quite a bit in national news. At Webster Groves a particular cheating incident has been on the minds of students. 

In AP U.S. History, some students have been accused of plagiarizing their recent essays by Googling the assignment online. Students allegedly plagiarized entire papers or just parts of them.

On a recent survey, 26 out of 46 Webster Groves students replied they had cheated on a quiz or test while in high school. Last year, 12 students were referred to the office for cheating and/or plagiarism, while this year, only six students have been referred (as of April 1).

About the consequences, assistant principal Dr. John Raimondo said, “This depends on if the student admits to the plagiarism. The student receives a zero on the assignment which can have a significant impact on the grade. The parent is called by either the teacher or the principal. If a student does not admit this, the principal will discuss the evidence with the teacher and then hear the student’s side of it. A decision is made after this. If the student is also a member of the National Honor Society, the five members of the NHS faculty council are called into a meeting to discuss the infraction. A decision is made regarding dismissal from NHS based on the severity of the infraction.”

Survey

On an April ECHO poll, 54.2 percent of  48 students admitted to cheating on a test or quiz in high school. Graphic by Rosa Parks.

The school’s policy states that if a student deliberately plagiarized, the offense will result in a zero on the assignment, and the student may be ineligible to join National Honors Society. If a student is caught plagiarizing for a second time, the student will be taken out of the class and receive a failing grade.

AP U.S. History teacher Martin Milstead tried to take an alternate route to the punishment of the incidents. Instead of reporting to the administration, he gave each individual class a chance to vote for what the punishment of the plagiarism should be. All students who were accused of plagiarizing had to turn in their essays into turnitin.com, although the ones who did plagiarism had time to change what they had written.

Milstead chose not to comment about the incident.

Junior Didi Simon said, “I feel really bad for Milstead because he does not deserve that.”

One student survey respondent said, “It’s completely dishonorable and unfair. The fact that someone could possibly cheat their way to an A over someone working hard for a B+ is kind of disgusting especially since scholarships and college admissions depend on this stuff. Basically a cheater could steal opportunities from someone who worked hard. Interestingly enough, cheating seems most prevalent among the gifted and AP students.”

Another survey respondent said, “It’s really bad, and in college there can be serious consequences for this. I would never plagiarize, but sometimes it’s hard to avoid seeing a test ahead of time, if you know it’s available. You have to use your resources.”

While cheating is deemed as asinine by the general public, it happens for a reason.

Raimondo said “High school students experience a lot of stress – academic and social. Stressful situations will not stop when they graduate. Students need to continue to learn how to effectively deal with stressful situations – taking short cuts and claiming others work as their own does not pay off in the end and can actually add to their stress.“

About why students cheat, junior Elijah Hyatt said, “Students are more worried about the grade than actually learning anything.”

At Truman State College, the punishment for cheating or plagiarism varies. It could be something small, like receiving an F on a paper, or something drastic, such as being expelled. The same punishments apply to most universities, although some have harsher punishments.

Princeton University has the same punishments as Truman except there is a possibility of a student’s degree being withheld. Princeton’s website says, “Among the most important values of a University community are those involving academic integrity.”

About preventing plagiarism, Raimondo said, “Teachers need to continue to make it clear that there will be significant consequences for cheating.”

There are several other ways that cheating and plagiarism can be prevented. Some of these are simple, like making sure students don’t have writing on their hands, collecting phones before a test and making different versions of tests.

Turnitin.com is useful site for grading papers, but it also allows teachers to check the percentage of similarity between a students paper and the papers that are on the internet already. Back in 2012, 38 million student papers were put into turnitin.com, which found 156 million matches, according to bestcollegereviews.com.

Raimondo added, “High school is a time that students continue to grow in their character and integrity. Developing good character will affect them the rest of their lives. We want our students to be leaders and persons of integrity. People will not follow leaders that they feel they cannot trust or leaders who take credit for work that they did not do. Leadership is not only about competence, it is about those they lead trusting them and feeling that their ideas are valued and credited to them.”


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