Thursday, October 29, 2009

Plagiarism

Today was a bit disappointing for me.

A fellow volunteer and I have set up a Model United Nations project as a joint venture between our NGOs. We got the idea from the International Student Forum camp that I participated in this last summer in Armenia, which culminated in a MUN simulation. I figured, why not take that and create a whole program around it that includes a culminating trip to an actual MUN conference, in particular the one held in NYC every year that allows participants a day at the UN building for the General Assembly session?

So, we assembled a group of 8 Armenian students and have spent the last 2 weeks teaching the basics of the UN system, its rules and procedures, and how MUN works. As part of this, the students are expected to each write a position paper on the topic for the country they are representing in the simulation this semester. I realize that it's difficult for them, so the expectation was that it would not have to be particularly long, perhaps a half a page to a page--an actual position paper, in any case, is only a maximum of 2 pages anyway and usually only 1.

I received three of them so far this week (they're due on Monday) and so far every single one of them has been grossly and blatantly plagiarized. A couple were at least from reputable sources (one was from a Wiki page), but they straight up copied and pasted the information from a couple different pages to try to make one whole position paper. I am so incredibly disappointed in them and sent an email to all the group reinforcing the plagiarism policy we had discussed (not singling anyone out, of course) and also sent emails to the individuals noting that this was not an acceptable practice and that they would need to rewrite their papers using their own words and ideas.

It makes me wonder how prevalent this is in Armenian universities. I mean, these are university age students, after all, and they're pulling shit like this. I would guess that this thing happens a lot in Armenia (it rarely if ever happened at my own college in America; I don't know how prevalent it is at other universities) and that the idea of plagiarism is simply not instilled in them. I wonder if that comes along with the fact that the education system here is not focused around critical thinking in the first place, so that this is not an issue for classrooms usually, or if it's just not checked.

I tell you, I was so angry when I saw it. Plagiarism is among the most despicable forms of academic dishonesty and I have no patience for it. I am giving them a bit of leeway in terms of my anger if only because I think this is not something that is instilled in them well here, but I'm certainly not accepting any paper of theirs that has been plagiarized.

3 comments:

Michele (Razzy) said...

All I can say is good for you. Not very original ... but I didn't plagiarize it, I swear! :)

Mex said...

When I was a grad student for the Model OAS program, I would frequently check to make sure that nobody was plagiarizing anything. I never ran across it from any of my students. However, when I was a participant my senior year of college, we were at the Model itself and it turned out that an entire team had plagiarized their resolutions from real OAS resolutions. They were not invited back.

Brad said...

Plagiarism is just as bad here in the United States. Also consider all the intellectual dishonesty going on in real legislative debates. It's like the Dark Ages all over again...