Cheaters are never beaters

The worst case of plagiarism on record at Chico State University was when someone copied and turned in an entire master’s thesis.

With plagiarism said to be on the rise here and nationwide, the university, along with representatives from the Associated Students government, has been meeting to discuss the matter of plagiarism on campus and what to do about it.

This week, the A.S. University Affairs Council planned to pose questions to Robert Jackson, dean of the School of Graduate, International and Sponsored Programs, who is working on the problem on the behalf of the university. On Feb. 19, a council focus group will tackle the topic.

Jackson said in an interview that he is in the beginning stages of researching the problem. “Like most campuses, we are seeing an increase,” he said, and countering plagiarism is “something we want to be more dedicated to in the educational community.”

Plagiarism is a violation of the University Code, and cheating or taking credit for others’ work can result in course failure, suspension or denial of a degree.

Typically, the accused are referred to Chico State’s Judicial Affairs Office for an investigation and hearing.

At the Feb. 11 meeting of the A.S. Governmental Affairs Committee (GAC), one of the A.S. officers, Traditional Activities Coordinator Sudeep Patra, related an experience in which a student allegedly took computer codes he wrote, changed them a bit and submitted the work as his or her own. Plagiarism in print form may be easily recognized, Patra said, but it’s important to be on the lookout also in computer science courses.

Mario Sagastume, the A.S. commissioner of activity fee, pointed out that part of the problem may be a lack of education: Some students may have been able to bumble their way through college without knowing how to properly cite sources.

If students deliberately rip off someone’s work, such as buying a ready-made term paper online, Sagastume said he favors “harsh consequences.”

“If I got an A on something and you got an A, it makes my A less valuable,” he said.

Brian Oppy, the professor who sits on the GAC, said he plans to start using a service to which the university subscribes called There, a professor can transfer the text of a paper into a form, and the site might be able to determine whether it is a copy.

When the CSU signed up with on a trial basis last year, a search of 1,150 papers found 46 of them had 70 to 100 percent of their text matching papers in the site’s database.

Some professors are also taking the university’s advice and asking students to give updates and cite sources as they go through the research process.

All this adds to professors’ workload, Oppy lamented, and transfers the responsibility from the student to the teacher.

The issue will come up again March 27 at 7 p.m. in PAC 134, when the Center for Applied and Professional Ethics (C.A.P.E.) hosts a panel speaking on the topic of increasing plagiarism and how best to punish offenders.