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Ohio University hosts first campus-wide academic honesty discussion

ATHENS, Ohio (Sept. 29, 2006) -- The "Day of Discourse" concerning the future of academic honesty at Ohio University was an opportunity for the university community to publicly discuss all facets of academic honesty, including current and future procedures and policies. 

Held on Sept. 28 at the Walter Hall Rotunda, topics addressed were plagiarism software, establishing an ethos of honesty and an honor code, creating an online tutorial, the role of university judiciaries, academic honesty and dishonesty, and improving and expanding the university's efforts to promote academic honesty.

Speakers included Provost Kathy Krendl, Academic Honesty Committee Co-Chair Scott Titsworth, Russ College of Engineering and Technology Academic Honesty Adviser Melissa Broeckelman, Dean of Students Terry Hogan, Director of the Center for Writing Excellence Sherrie Gradin and College of Osteopathic Medicine Director of Faculty Development Stephen Davis.

Broeckelman said the survey she conducted recently that found that 84 percent of Ohio University undergraduates and 55 percent of its graduate students admitted to academic cheating within the past year. The numbers were alarming because they were higher than the national averages presented by a couple of national surveys, which said 70 percent of undergraduates and 29 percent of graduate students admit to cheating. 

Broeckelman gave some reasons she believes students cheat. These include lack of time and extreme pressure to complete assignments, the cost of getting bad grades, the lack of a deterrence not to cheat and a lack of knowledge when it comes to properly preparing course materials for submission. She also suspects that the cultural differences in students play a role because every culture doesn't define plagiarism the same and the concept of ownership of an idea is a Western world creation that started in the 19th century.   

Titsworth laid out a plan for the Academic Honesty Committee that included short-term, medium-term and long-term considerations. Significant short-term goals included creating an academic honesty Web site, conducting a trial use of the plagiarism detection software Turnitin and conducting a survey of chairs and directors on campus. 

Medium-term goals included continuing the assessment process, creating instructional materials for teachers and students and expanding successful practices. Titsworth said the committee's long-term goals are to establish an ethos of honesty for students, create an honor code and disseminate the committee's practices to multiple audiences. 

"Today was about the Academic Honesty Committee identifying what its charge and priorities are and beginning to establish some short-term, medium-term and long-term goals it can achieve during the course of the year," Krendl said. "We heard the potential benefits of adopting some of the discussed procedures. This was really the beginning of the ideas, education and discussion and we will have to identify the processes we will use for action."

The scheduled speakers were followed by an interactive session that allowed the audience to break up into small groups to discuss some of the issues. Each group then submitted written reports to the Academic Honesty Committee that included recommendations. 

"I was really pleased with the quality of the discussions that went on in the small groups," Titsworth said. "It was helpful and will help us as a committee set an agenda for the rest of the year."

Two of the main topics discussed in the groups were the future adoption of a university-wide honor code and the use of the online plagiarism detection program Turnitin. 

The importance of creating an honor code was one of the strongest messages presented at the event. The prevailing thought was that intervention and prevention are the key goals to achieve academic honesty and plagiarism software alone will not fix the problem. 

Several people stated that the university should not give the students an impression that it is creating a police state regarding academic honesty. It is believed that an honor code would create ethics and standards for students, which would help reduce the problem. 

"The complexity of the issue of academic honesty was revealed today and these are not black and white issues," Krendl said. "It's not just about catching people cheating -- it's about educating people, developing assignments, exercises, materials, resources and tools that are part of the educational process."

Titsworth said the Academic Honesty Committee's next step is to prioritize the recommendations. He said after the prioritizing is completed, effective implementation of intervention strategies will be the most important job for the committee and the campus as a whole. 

"People were reflective on some of the important issues, ranging from how we define what plagiarism is, what faculty roles are and how we can help the students develop a code of ethics for themselves that impact their time here and for the rest of their lives," Titsworth said.

The "Day of Discourse" was organized by the 10-member Academic Honesty Committee, which is comprised of faculty, staff and students. The committee, which was appointed by Krendl, is charged with reviewing the university's policies, procedures and processes related to academic honesty and making recommendations to strengthen them.

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Media Contact: Director of Media Relations Jack Jeffery, (740) 597-1793 or jefferyj@ohio.edu, or Media Specialist George Mauzy, (740) 593-1794 or mauzy@ohio.edu

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