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"Texas A&M International University in Laredo Fired a Professor for Publishing the Names of Students Accused of Plagiarism":

So reports the Daily Texan. The post at issue is here. The syllabus for the course stated, "No form of dishonesty is acceptable. I will promptly and publicly fail and humiliate anyone caught lying, cheating, or stealing. That includes academic dishonesty, copyright violations, software piracy, or any other form of dishonesty." True to his word, the professor -- an untenured and apparently part-time adjunct professor -- was indeed "promptly and publicly ... humiliat[ing]" the students who he believed were cheating; the university is paraphrased as stating that the professor "was terminated for violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal law that prohibits the release of students' educational records without consent."

I can't speak to whether FERPA indeed applies here. But I'm inclined to say that a university wouldn't be violating academic freedom -- or, as to public universities, the First Amendment -- if it provided that a faculty member generally may not publicize embarrassing things he learns about specific named students as a result of his teaching, even including dishonest conduct by those students. Inside Higher Ed has more, including this:

Adding to the buzz has been an e-mail message sent to department chairs by someone in the administration (the provost denies knowing anything about it, and an article Wednesday in the Laredo Morning Times attributed it to deans) in which the chairs were reminded to tell faculty members that any F grades for plagiarism should be reviewed by the honors council and that professors need to always think about students' due process rights before seeking to punish them.

Several faculty members, speaking privately because they didn't want to anger administrators, said that they were taken aback by the way the university appeared to be viewing plagiarism as an issue requiring more due process for students, not more support for professors. For the university to follow the dismissal of an adjunct with this reminder, they said, left them feeling that they couldn't bring plagiarism charges. Further, many said that they believed it was a professor's right to award an F to a plagiarizer and that this should not require an honors council review.

Several e-mail messages are circulating among faculty members, expressing concern that their right to assure academic integrity is being undercut. Despite how widespread a problem plagiarism is among students, these e-mail messages say, the university is looking the other way and sending a public message to students that they are the victims when a professor takes plagiarism seriously....

Pablo Arenaz, provost at the university, said he was distressed that some faculty members are concerned about the university's commitment to academic integrity. Asked whether a professor has the right to award an F to someone caught copying, Arenaz said that was "up to interpretation."

It seems to me that if it's just "up to interpretation" whether a professor could give a student an F for cheating, then there is indeed reason to be "concerned about the university's commitment to academic integrity."

Thanks to Paul Caron (TaxProf Blog) for the pointer; follow that link to see links to the professor's defenses of his position (for instance, this one.

Houston Lawyer:
I'd really like to know whether the statute in question really is so broad that an institution cannot make public academic dishonesty by a student.
11.18.2008 4:45pm
taney71:
Universities are in the business to make money so they have a reason not to really care about plagiarism. Many colleges don't even buy access to the simply program "turnitin.com".
11.18.2008 4:53pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
I'd really like to know whether the statute in question really is so broad that an institution cannot make public academic dishonesty by a student.
I would very much think so. Public record information is pretty restricted. The student transcript could record plagiarism, but that isn't public, even though the student himself will probably have to submit it for graduate school or work.

I'm all for failing (better, suspending) plagiarists, but of course there has to be an appeal provision for the student. In several years of teaching, not one student I failed for dishonesty saw fit to try their luck with the dean, perhaps for fear the F from me would be a better deal than they got from the Administration.
11.18.2008 4:54pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Young, a former adjunct professor of management information systems, said he believes he made the right move. He said trials are public for a reason, and plagiarism should be treated the same way. He added that exposing cheaters is an effective deterrent."

So where's the trial?
11.18.2008 4:56pm
Matthew K:
I'm somewhat concerned by your take on this. Surely it matters whether the student is guilty. It is perfectly reasonable for a university to require that formal disciplinary procedures be used to establish whether a student actually committed plagiarism. Perhaps things look different at larger universities but, at the schools i have known, it would be very unusual for sanctions not to go through some kind of official channel.

Also, the professor is way over the line. File sharing? What next, cheating on your SO? That is beyond the scope of his course and none of his concern. Even if the university places disciplinary power in the hands of a professor I see absolutely no reason why said professor should be able punish students for non-academic behavior.
11.18.2008 4:57pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

It seems to me that if it's just "up to interpretation" whether a professor could give a student an F for cheating, then there is indeed reason to be "concerned about the university's commitment to academic integrity."


What might reasonably be "up to interpretation" is whether the professor may by himself give a student an F for cheating. Many universities have procedures for dealing with allegations of cheating that require the instructor to submit the allegation to some sort of judicial body. Such due process should not raise concerns about the universities commitment to academic integrity. One might also question whether all incidents of "cheating", no matter what kind, in what degree, and in what circumstances, deserve an F. It is reasonable for a university to impose some standards for dealing with cheating rather than leaving it up to each instructor.
11.18.2008 4:57pm
MartyA:
The instructor went to far when he published such an inflexible threat in his syllabus. It seems better to use the text of the university's official statement on dishonesty. When a "situation" arises, the instructor reduces the grade to the appropriate level, even to an "F" and lets the student raise the challenge.
This is a very interesting subject, however, because there are some who believe that Obama did not release the text of his undergraduate thesis because it was plagiarized and complicit liberal faculty at Columbia knew/thought it was plagiarized, but did nothing that might hurt the school's affirmative action efforts.
11.18.2008 4:59pm
Sagar:
it should be OK to fail a student for plagiarism, but there has to be due process for the student, in case he was wrongly failed. and the publicizing of their names and grades can't be supported, since that would invite law suits against the university.
11.18.2008 5:00pm
NYOPINION (mail):
The F on the plagiarized paper is a FERPA protected "educational record" which shouldn't be publicly disclosed w/o permission. The problem here is the statement "I will promptly and publicly fail and humiliate" which implicates the FERPA protected record.
11.18.2008 5:01pm
Uh_Clem (mail):
Generally, a student's grades are private and can only be disclosed with the student's consent. So, the prof. is on thin ice disclosing that he failed a particular student even before going on to say why.

For an untenured part time adjunct to do this is just plain stupid.

As far as giving an F for cheating being "up for interpretation", an untenured new part-time adjunct should have their grading monitored. It sounds like this guy is a raving loon and the dean would be remiss if they gave him carte blanche.

That said, an F for copying is the right punishment. Definitely for the assignment in question, perhaps for the course as a whole, depending on the severity and maturity of the student. (i.e. I'd cut a freshman more slack than a phd candidate on the basis that the freshman might not really understand the rules yet.)
11.18.2008 5:04pm
pete (mail) (www):

Also, the professor is way over the line. File sharing? What next, cheating on your SO? That is beyond the scope of his course and none of his concern. Even if the university places disciplinary power in the hands of a professor I see absolutely no reason why said professor should be able punish students for non-academic behavior.


I noticed this too. Whether a student pirates software really is not the professors concern the vast majority of the time. By all means punish a student for cheating or for plagarizing, but their conduct outside the classroom in matters like file sharing really isn't the professors business most of the time.

I was told back in high school after a classmate got caught cheating by one teacher that all the teachers found out when students got caught, especially if they were in the honors courses. I assume this goes on in smaller colleges abnda cademic departments as well, even with FERPA.
11.18.2008 5:07pm
dave h:
At my undergraduate institution, all cases of academic dishonesty (among other things) were reviewed by a panel who decided the appropriate course of action. Professors had no right to go outside that system to determine their own punishment - if they thought a student was cheating, they were supposed to present that evidence to the panel and the student could defend himself. It seemed to me a reasonably fair and just system.
11.18.2008 5:10pm
Sean M:
I sat on my college's Academic Integrity board. I can't say Academic Integrity hearings were a matter of "due process," but they are certainly a good idea. At my college, for a first-time offender, the Dean (or his designee) can assign a punishment for violations which can be appealed to the Academic Integrity board. Second-and-more time offenders go to the board in the first instance.

At my law school, we have a completely student-run Honor Council which must hear all accusations of lying, cheating, and stealing. It makes a good deal of sense for oversight of these accusations, which are quite serious and can ruin academic careers, rather than committing it to individual professor discretion.
11.18.2008 5:11pm
Blue:
I am instantly suspicuous of any FERPA claim. I've seen far too many cases of education officials using it as a jeremiad to prevent releasing information they either don't want to release or don't feel like gathering.
11.18.2008 5:12pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
I'm just curious: Would a professor be able to disclose the names of students caught cheating, but not, in so many words, their final grades, w/o running afoul of FERPA if s/he had included in the course description the proviso that all students caught cheating would be flunked? What if the proviso hadn't been there?

In other words, is it only the actual mark on the transcript that's protected from disclosure? If you can deduce the mark on the transcript from the publicized information, is that a FERPA violation even if the mark itself isn't explicitly stated? And what about information that's damaging to a student's reputation, but doesn't translate neatly into a letter grade?
11.18.2008 5:14pm
Uh_Clem (mail):
Here's the post that got him fired.

Which sparks the question: Is Public Humiliation an Ethically Appropriate Response to Career-ending Asshattery?

Well, regardless of which side of this question you advocate, ex-prof Loye Young is getting his 15 minutes right now. Enjoy!

(BTW, he's probably left himself wide open to a suit from the students named - IANAL, so others here would probably know better than I. )
11.18.2008 5:16pm
CDU (mail) (www):
I don't know how they do it at A&M, but when I went through new faculty orientation, the university took great pains to make clear that the professor is the final authority when it comes to assigning a grade for the class. The university's disciplinary process (which can result in suspension or expulsion) is entirely separate from the professor's academic response to cheating or plagiarism. I don't get to decide what disciplinary action is taken, and the Office of Academic Integrity has no say in what grade I assign. I think this is a pretty good system.

In this case, it seems like both sides are trying to horn in on something that shouldn't be any of their business. The professor is trying to inflict his own disciplinary action by publicly humiliating the students, and the university is interfering with the professor's responsibility for assigning grades in his class.
11.18.2008 5:24pm
scote (mail):
Seems to me a little due process is in order before publicly slandering students, regardless of the supposed disclaimer issued by the lecturer at the beginning of class. The Lecturer's unilateral suspicion is not sufficient, I should think, as a basis for violating federal privacy regulations.
11.18.2008 5:26pm
Nick056:
The school should have forced him to alter the language in his syllabus. As a few people have pointed out, it's unclear if he Young limited grave offenses to the academic arena. In fact, that he described one entire category as "academic dishonesty" gives rise to the possible implication that he would punish the other kinds of behavior through academic censure, even if they weren't academic dishonesty. The language is so overheated it's not splittig hairs to point out that he seems willing to grade you based on what you do outside the classroom.

That's bizarre, and the school should have sought clarification, and, if he really turned out to be unhinged, altered the syllabus. What a nutter.
11.18.2008 5:30pm
Michael Masinter (mail):
FERPA forbids disclosure of personally identifiable information from academic records without the prior signed and dated written consent of a student. A school that permits a professor to condition enrollment in a course upon waiver of FERPA rights probably should plan to operate without benefit of federal financial assistance. To answer Ms. Thompson's question, schools cannot disclose deidentified or redacted information from a student's educational record when to do so would enable a reasonable reader to determine the identity the student.

Whatever the value of public shaming or disclosure might be thought to be, FERPA forbids disclosure of academic disciplinary matters. That is why university honor courts no longer conduct their proceedings in public or identify students who have been disciplined, and it is why academic departments (quite happily) refuse to comment on the misconduct of their athletes who at least manage to avoid arrest. See United States v. Miami University, http://pub.bna.com/lw/003518.htm
11.18.2008 5:39pm
David Welker (www):

your own opinion or thoughts about a subject is really very meaningless unless you are able to back it up with references to authoritative sources


This attitude is a puzzle to me.

So, an opinion is meaningless unless it is backed up by authoritative sources. But, what about opinions in the sources I cite? I suppose those are also meaningless, unless they reference back to other authoritative sources. Sounds like some sort of strange looping process by which opinions come to have "meaning."

Enough with the over-the-top hyperbole. It seems that some people think the more extreme they are, the more credibility they will have. It is just the opposite. That an opinion cites some references for facts or analysis elsewhere may indeed make it stronger. But, this is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for a "meaningful" and quality opinion.
11.18.2008 5:44pm
Cornellian (mail):
"No form of dishonesty is acceptable. I will promptly and publicly fail and humiliate anyone caught lying, cheating, or stealing. That includes academic dishonesty, copyright violations, software piracy, or any other form of dishonesty."

They should have fired him as soon as he issued the above statement. Assigning grades may be within his discretion (possibly with extra procedural safeguards when cheating is alleged) but since when is it within his purview to "publicly humiliate" anyone?

And what's with the reference to copyright violations and software piracy? He seems to be saying that he'll "fail and humiliate" a student who legitimately scores 100% on every assignment and exam in his course if the student commits a copyright violation even outside the classroom on some matter completely unrelated to his course. Failing that student would in itself be dishonest behavior by the professor and, on his own standards, he ought to be fired for making the threat in the first place.
11.18.2008 5:44pm
Philistine (mail):

I'm just curious: Would a professor be able to disclose the names of students caught cheating, but not, in so many words, their final grades, w/o running afoul of FERPA if s/he had included in the course description the proviso that all students caught cheating would be flunked?


No FERPA is quite broad. Without consent, there are very limited exceptions to any information being disclosed--results of disciplinary hearings may only be disclosed (under certain circumstances) if there is a violation of school rules that is also a crime of violence or non-violent sexual offense.

See 34 CFR 99.31 for the times when a school may disclose info without the student's consent.
11.18.2008 5:48pm
John Neff:
I doubt that Texas A &M has a policy that would permit public humiliation of a student or anyone else. They probably also have a faculty handbook that gives the proper procedure for dealing with cheating. If they don't now they will have one soon.
11.18.2008 5:57pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

the professor is the final authority when it comes to assigning a grade for the class.


If this is really the policy, I would say that it is both unusual and improper. If what they meant is that the athletic department isn't allowed to intervene and arrange better grades for athletes or something like that, fair enough, but in every case that I know about, the possibility exists of appealing a grade to some higher authority, either a Dean or a Faculty Senate committee. Grades assigned by the instructor shouldn't be tampered with lightly, but an appeal mechanism is needed to deal with rogue instructors (some faculty really are nuts, or go nuts), faculty who let a personality conflict influence them, and inexperienced instructors who just don't know how to grade.
11.18.2008 6:00pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
It's worth noting that it's possible to commit a copyright violation on an assignment without plagerism. If a student turned in a paper that heavily quoted from a copyrighted source, it could be a copyright violation, even if the source was acknowledged.

That said, it does appear possible that this guy was threatening to fail (and expose) students for behavior unrelated to his class.
11.18.2008 6:00pm
Splunge:
The best way to deal with this is, if possible, to make cheating self-punishing.

We used to have a problem with copying during exams, because of closely-spaced seats. Many instructors coped by making two different versions of the exam, and passing them out so only every other student got the same exam.

But I did something different. I gave exams in which every other student (looking across a row)and sometimes only every third student received an exam that looked the same as all others, but where the actual correct answer was significantly different. (For example, you had to draw a graph, and the problem was very similarly stated and the graph axes identically labeled -- but in one exam the correct graph was upside down or backward from the other.)

If you copied from your neighbor, you just copied garbage and got a zero. Not only did this prevent cheating, which the obviously different exams do, it lured the copyists into destroying themselves, without any effort on my part. Problem solved!

We also had a problem with students sneaking in stuff on their calculator memories. But then they'd get upset if they couldn't have their calculators. So I put it to them on day. I said, I'm totally comfortable designing a final exam which you will do using only a paper and pencil, or an exam on which you'll be allowed to use a calculator -- or for that matter, an exam on which you can use a calculator, your textbooks, your notes, and a cell phone programmed with the phone number of a friend standing by in the reference section of the library. However, keep in mind that I will design the test, no matter what, to have a class average of 50%. Reflect on what that fact implies for the correlation between the difficulty of the test and what you choose to have available as outside resources.

They voted almost unanimously to have an exam on which only paper and pencil were allowed, and I got no complaints. Smart kids.

In fact, generally I find students are smarter about this than professors. They weigh the odds carefully, and go with the expected maximum payoff, with a few sad exceptions of course. If a teacher has a big problem with cheating, I find it's usually because he's lazy, and wants his mere angry authority to overrule the payoff matrix he's set up for the students, intentionally or no.
11.18.2008 6:02pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Just from the wording of the syllabus, the professor seems a little, um, intense. It may be that the situation is too idiosyncratic to draw any large conclusions from.
11.18.2008 6:18pm
JP_ (mail):
Professor Volokh,

I think it's important to point out that the administration is not just casually misusing the phrase "due process rights." Presumably, failing a course for dishonesty will have some effect on the student's status, and can open the University up to a Section 1983 claim if the student is not afforded procedural due process.

In other words, the professor can give the student an F for plagiarism, but the university may have to afford the student notice, an opportunity to respond, etc... I assume that is what the provost means by the inartful phrase "up to interpretation."
11.18.2008 6:31pm
FWB (mail):
Public humiliation is good for the soul. When I began college all grades were posted with your name for every exam and the course final. And they stayed on the wall usually until the next exam. Nuch of wussies in college now. If you are embarassed by how you did, maybe you shouldn't be there.
11.18.2008 6:33pm
Lucius Cornelius:
This policy actually worries me. What protections would a student have if this professor comes to believe that a student is cheating, when in fact the student is not cheating?

I was once the victim of a paranoid lab instructor who believed I was cheating. I was amazed. All I had to do was attend for four hours to get a passing grade. I could sit on my hands for four hours and get a C. I worked my posterior off yet this instructor thought I was cheating.

The first time it was because I submitted a table of measurements and the last digit of each measurement was "7." I don't remember what the second incident was about. But the third one involved a lab session where I ran out of time. I described my measurements, then wrote a statement that I had run out of time and stated that the following comments were based on my belief about what I would have found if I had continued taking measurements. I concluded by restating the fact that the previous section was not based on observations.

I received a failing grade for that exercise and was told that I needed to submit a variety of defensive documents (including an apology and an explanation as to why I should not be given a failing grade and reported). I dropped the class. To this day, I hope that this lab instructor went back to his home country and lived in poverty.

But this experience taught me that not all allegations of cheating may be based on fact.
11.18.2008 7:16pm
Dave N (mail):
It is interesting how attitudes toward cheating have changed over the years. My father is a long-retired college professor.

Half a century ago he caught a student cheating on his midterm. He told the student that he had earned an automatic F for the course. The next class he announced he had caught a cheat, and that the cheating student would receive an F for his efforts. However, he did not announce who the cheater was.

That student sat through the remainder of the course, knowing his ultimate fate, because he didn't want anyone to know he was a cheater.

Today, we have turnitin.com and similar sites and an attitude in some that cheating is no big deal. I think this guy was way over the top in public humiliation--but justified in automatically failing anyone caught cheating.

I know I would.
11.18.2008 7:32pm
SFJD (www):
Law school professors: Is it normal to have 6 or more students cheat or plagiarize on any given assignment in law school?

From the tone of his post, it sounds like there were more people cheating that he hadn't caught yet, or "questionable cases" that didn't deserve the full wrath of public humiliation. Is there usually this much cheating going on in law school classes?
11.18.2008 7:38pm
FoolsMate:
Lucius Cornelius:
I witnessed a senior engineering professor publicly humiliate and fail (later reversed) two students for cheating on a take-home, open book exam, with "honor system" rules not to discuss the exam with other students. The exam was in the form of writing a program to carry out a complex engineerinng calculation. Their crime? Student A cited "Student B's CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics" for some technical data. They lived together, were in the same engineering program and shared books to save money.
11.18.2008 7:53pm
pauldom:
Gregory Conen:

It's worth noting that it's possible to commit a copyright violation on an assignment without plagerism. If a student turned in a paper that heavily quoted from a copyrighted source, it could be a copyright violation, even if the source was acknowledged.

Yep. It's also possible to plagiarize without committing a copyright violation. Submitting the same exact work for a grade in more than one class often violates plagiarism policies, even if you wrote every word yourself. Paraphrasing ideas without attribution can constitute plagiarism if the paraphrases aren't sourced, even when no actual copyrighted material is reproduced.

Mix that up with byzantine academic appeal procedures and you have a wonderful cocktail of fun.
11.18.2008 8:26pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
It doesn't appear, from the sequence of events described in the various stories, postings, etc., that Mr. Young ever bothered to confront the accused students with his accusation, or provide them with the opportunity to offer any explanation for their alleged mis-conduct, before posting the accusation on a public site. That's, frankly, pretty close to inexcusable, and someone should offer Mr. Young some instruction as to what the concept of "fair trial" means in this country.

The tone of his "defense", and, for that matter, his syllabus, suggests that he regarded himself as something in the nature of a dispenser of vigilante justice, and that he did not regard his mandate to dispense his personal brand of justice as confined to his duties as an adjunct professor. I'd have been warned off by the tone, but some folks may have needed that class to graduate, and had no choice, or not recognized the characteristic sound of a martinet.

Me, I've been around more than I'd care to count; I recall at least one judge who was willing to dispose of substantive matters based on his finding the tabs on the affidavits accompanying the motions were not of the correct length.. . .
11.18.2008 8:30pm
Lucius Cornelius:
I had JJ Freeland as a professor of corporate tax law at the University of Florida LLM program back in the 80s. His exams were "open code." You could bring in your code and could make use of any notes in the margins.

The codes we used those days had some blank pages. Using one code for all of my classes, pretty soon all my blank pages were full. I asked the professor if there were any limit to the number of codes we could bring to the exam. He said "no."

I brought two codes with me. Of course, all the work that I put into putting annotations in the margins was excellent preparation for the exam...I hardly had to look at them.
11.18.2008 8:36pm
corneille1640 (mail):

They voted almost unanimously to have an exam on which only paper and pencil were allowed, and I got no complaints. Smart kids.

I prefer pens to pencil.
11.18.2008 8:48pm
Norman Bates (mail):
I taught a "graduate level" course at a state university within the past five years. About two-thirds of the students had no clue about the ethics of scholarship or the mechanics of scholarly citation. About a third of the class were on the left hand side of the Intelligence bell curve.

I repeatedly warned one student -- whose capacity to write a coherent sentence was around third-grade level -- about her plagiarism. The final straw came when she handed in a paper that started with a quite complex, elegantly written, and well-reasoned sentence. Out of curiosity, I did a Google search on the first several words and came up with an immediate hit.

When I later tried to fail the student, I had to defend myself against accusations of racial prejudice. I believe the Dean later changed her grade to a pass in order to prevent any problems. Apparently, most of the people posting to this thread have no idea how bad things have gotten in this country's third-rate and lower institutions of higher education. The instructor in question may have stepped over the line but I empathize with the frustration that led him to do so.
11.18.2008 9:02pm
Bob_R (mail):
Maybe our lawyers are overly cautious, but here at Virginia Tech we have been directed not to post grades where they can be seen by the public even if we take pains to hide the identity of the students. I can't imagine someone without tenure keeping his job if he made a conscious effort to publicize the name of a student getting an F as a form of punishment. Don't all schools give their teachers some sort of guidance (correct or not) about a students rights under FERPA?
11.18.2008 9:05pm
Roy Mustang (mail):
The more fired professors, the better. Lifetime employment without accountability is dangerous for democracies.
11.18.2008 9:09pm
CDU (mail) (www):
The more fired professors, the better. Lifetime employment without accountability is dangerous for democracies.


This prof is an adjunct. He's on a semester to semester contract and has no job security whatsoever.
11.18.2008 9:10pm
Roy Mustang (mail):
Damn, I knew it was too good to be true. Although I am still happy any professor was fired.
11.18.2008 9:20pm
Bama 1L:
When I was a freshman in college (15 years ago!), Professor Bigshot was teaching a freshman seminar and decided to impress his students' parents by sending them marked-up, graded copies of the kids' midterm writing assignments.

Major FERPA violation.

Of course Bigshot was tenured at professor rank, and besides that a state legislator--untouchable. And the violation was stupid, not malicious. His punishment--what we learned of it--consisted of having to send apologies to the students and their families and suffer bad publicity.
11.18.2008 9:38pm
J.P. (mail):
Plagiarism no longer matters. We have a plagiarist as our vice-president elect. Good luck convincing your students plagiarism is wrong or will hurt their careers when Biden shows that as long as you know the right people, no one will care.
11.18.2008 9:47pm
ccoffer (mail):
Standards are simply an expression of hate. Just because some people get a degree the traditional way while other people get them through plagiarism or whatever is irrelevant to the fact that EVERYONE deserves a degree. Just like any two creatures have the right to define marriage.

Stand up for your rights!!
11.18.2008 10:01pm
gearhead:
I am an older student going to back to school for some additional training in my field. Personally, I consider
that I am buying a service from the university and expect
to be treated as any other consumer of a service expects to be.

I would have went to the Dean, dropped the class, and demand my money back.

I did exactly that recently for a Numerical Analysis class, taught by a very poor teacher who missed almost half the class. A group of us went to the Dean and demand to take the class over with a competent instructor.

That's one thing I have noticed about schools that have extensive professional and career development programs-much more awareness that they are basically in the service industry. They know they have students in their 30s, already working, and often paying for themselves who won't stand for a lot of the BS.
11.18.2008 10:08pm
rrr (mail):
The guy actually spends quite a bit of time defending his decision in light of FERPA on his blog. Perhaps instead of assuming what he did, etc., one should read his reasoning and then be more qualified to comment, no?
11.18.2008 10:11pm
eeyn524:
gearhead:

It's certainly important for us to remember that we're supposed to be serving students, and you do deserve your money back if your instructor failed to show for class.

But there are limits to the student-as-consumer model. It works well if it's understood by both sides that what's being provided is instruction and fair but critical appraisal of the student's work. Unfortunately, some students view themselves as paying for the resulting credential, or even more shallow, a particular grade. There's a built in conflict of interest in these cases between giving the consumer what he wants and what he deserves. That's part of the reason why the more crudely commercial online schools get less respect - there's a suspicion that they're selling the credential rather than the instruction.

IMO the ultimate solution is to separate instruction from evaluation. Universities would offer courses but no credentials; you'd get your degree by passing an exam offered by an independent body and your grade is the score on the exam.
11.18.2008 10:25pm
Sarcastra:
@Roy Mustang: Yes! Fire all the professors! A cultural revolution is in the offing...
11.18.2008 10:44pm
neurodoc:
Of the 6 "shamed" students, at least 5 appear to have Hispanic surnames. Can't help but wonder if that will not somehow affect the outcome.
11.18.2008 10:45pm
uh_clem (mail):
The guy actually spends quite a bit of time defending his decision in light of FERPA on his blog. Perhaps instead of assuming what he did, etc., one should read his reasoning and then be more qualified to comment, no?

I've read his "reasoning". The aphorism "when you're in a hole, stop digging" comes to mind.

Seriously, this guy shouldn't be teaching anybody about anything, other than maybe "Arrogance for Dummies"
11.18.2008 10:58pm
eeyn524:
neurodoc: About 5 out of 6 students at TAMIU have Hispanic surnames, so the guy's an equal opportunity shamer.
11.18.2008 11:22pm
eran (mail) (www):
Since when do professors "award" grades? Students "earn" grades and some, by their behavior or lack of work earn an F.

I'm an adjunct professor; I make it explicitly clear the first week of class what I expect and if students are caught cheating on exams, they will get a zero, not an F, a zero. Pretty much wrecks their grade. I teach 40-50 students a year - have caught three cheating, no one protested - one tried but he lost his case.

I wouldn't waste time embarrassing them by publicizing their name, I'd just document the heck out of it and let them get the grade they earned, an F. My students must sign a contract with 10 responsibility items on it. One says, "I have no right to impose my negative opinion on others in the class." Another, "I am aware that the giving or receiving of answers to exams to/with other students, current or prior is unacceptable and will result in a score of zero for the exam. There are not exceptions....."

I've not lost a complaint yet - if I do, I walk. Fortunately I don't need the money or anything else - I just love to teach. I do expect my students to learn.
11.18.2008 11:45pm
Bruce:
I was going to comment on FERPA but I see the comments above basically get it right.
11.19.2008 12:04am
cathyf:
At my husband's college, one of the professors demanded that a student be expelled from school for the "academic dishonesty" of a typographical error in a footnote. (The student left out the publication date. Which was, of course, redundant in the presence of the correct ISBN.) The dean quite appropriately ignored the professor.
11.19.2008 12:18am
Cornellian (mail):
"I have no right to impose my negative opinion on others in the class."

But they do have the right to impose their positive opinions on others in the class?
11.19.2008 12:20am
Bama 1L:
The student left out the publication date. Which was, of course, redundant in the presence of the correct ISBN.

Huh? What citation scheme calls for ISBNs?

At any rate, this may be the sort of issue the university president was leaving open to interpretation. A failing grade in this circumstance would probably not be warranted.
11.19.2008 12:44am
stealthpundit (mail):
My daughter is a student at UVa and the sole punishment for an Honor System violation (lying, cheating or stealing) is dismissal from the University. In fact, a few years ago a number of graduates had their degrees revoked when it was proven that they had cheated on an exam. There is an upside to this of course. Around Charlottesville a student's word is considered pretty good bond

The Honor System is student run and includes due process - something missing in the incident described here. Compared to the UVa system though it seems like these students got off pretty easily.
11.19.2008 8:08am
Uh_Clem (mail):
"I have no right to impose my negative opinion on others in the class."

Do you provide a translation so that the students have some idea of WTF you're talking about here? Or are they required to bring their own tin-foil hat?

Seriously, what does this mean? Do you fail a student if he says he doesn't like broccolli? I don't get it.
11.19.2008 9:17am
Happyshooter:
Since we are telling college stories.

I started school at a community college and transfered to a four year. While at the CC, I did a paper on the different types of rape. At the time, womyns groups were pushing different types from actual unwanted sexual contact to my favorite--a woman is in the area of a man and without saying or doing anything he thinks of her as a sexual being without consent (psychic rape).

I did a paper for criminal justice class I was proud of, breaking the subject down into five types, and got an A. I buffed it up and turned it in for english comp, too. I got an E, and in front of witnesses the professor accused men like me of being the reason women get raped.

I appealed, and the dean stated the paper was of poor quality. Other profs suggested requesting a formal hearing in front of the college president with the class called as witnesses, I did make a request and the dean excused me from the rest of the class and gave me an A.
11.19.2008 9:20am
Adam J:
Uh_Clem - I think that's his bizarre way of saying no personal attacks on other students. It's a bit broad though... if you think another student is wrong, is that a "negative opinion" that you cannot express?
11.19.2008 9:53am
Aultimer:

stealthpundit (mail):
My daughter is a student at UVa and the sole punishment for an Honor System violation (lying, cheating or stealing) is dismissal from the University. In fact, a few years ago a number of graduates had their degrees revoked when it was proven that they had cheated on an exam.


A real "Honor" system doesn't punish students for "proven" violations - only self-confessed ones. You've described a mere disciplinary system with heavy penalties. Jefferson continues to roll over in his grave.
11.19.2008 10:35am
David M. Nieporent (www):
At my undergraduate institution, all cases of academic dishonesty (among other things) were reviewed by a panel who decided the appropriate course of action. Professors had no right to go outside that system to determine their own punishment - if they thought a student was cheating, they were supposed to present that evidence to the panel and the student could defend himself. It seemed to me a reasonably fair and just system.
I think that's about right, but some people (including, perhaps, this professor) are conflating punishment and consequences. An "F" is not punishment for cheating, any more than an "A" is a "reward" for hard work. It's just giving the student what he has earned.

It's extra-grade punishment -- suspension, expulsion, community service, humiliation, etc. -- that should be handled at a level above that of the classroom.
11.19.2008 10:36am
Angus Johnston (www):
One aspect of this story that I find striking is the lack of evidence that Mr. Young clearly defined plagiarism in the syllabus, or that he presented his students with a rigorous explanations of his expectations with regard to the use and citation of external sources.

Students aren't born knowing academic rules, they have to be taught them, and they're taught them in the classroom. A professor who imposes draconian punishments for students' failure to meet a standard he has not clearly defined has failed in the most fundamental task of the teacher -- he has failed to teach.
11.19.2008 10:42am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

Plagiarism no longer matters. We have a plagiarist as our vice-president elect. Good luck convincing your students plagiarism is wrong or will hurt their careers when Biden shows that as long as you know the right people, no one will care.



Interestingly enough, the former instructor in question referred to Vice President-elect, Senator Joseph Biden as part of the rationale for his actions:

I am cognizant of the extraordinary moral difficulty involved when deciding what is in another's best interests. Nonetheless, I am convinced that public disclosure, including the concomitant humiliation, is in the interests of the student because it is the best way to teach the student about the consequences of dishonesty and discourage the student from plagiarizing again. Humiliation is inextricably part of a well-formed conscience.

The Vice President-elect, Senator Joseph Biden, is perhaps the most well-known plagiarizer in recent history. Biden was caught plagiarizing while at Syracuse Law School. The school gave him an F, required him to retake the course, and subsequently treated the incident as confidential. [URL removed]

Unfortunately, Biden didn't learn his lesson at law school. He continued to plagiarize for another 20 years. During the 1988 presidential campaign, Senator Biden's career of plagiarizing came to light, and he was forced to end his presidential bid. (For details of Mr. Biden's plagiarism career, see, e.g., http://www.the-idler.com/IDLER-02/1-23.html, http://www.slate.com/id/2198597/, and http://www.slate.com/id/2198543/.)

It is my belief that the Syracuse incident left a subtle and subliminal message in Biden's mind: plagiarism is not a deal breaker. Consequently, he continued to plagiarize. Unfortunately for the Senator, the facts came to public light at the worst possible time: when he was running for President.

I believe that had the Syracuse incident been available publicly, Mr. Biden would have actually learned his lesson and would not have plagiarized later. Twenty years later, if the incident had come up at all, the Senator would have plausibly and convincingly maintained that the incident was a youthful mistake.
11.19.2008 11:04am
hey (mail):
In real classes, profs are not the final arbiter of grades. For engineering and other regulated programs, the institution is responsible for maintaining a certain level of rigor and ensuring what a grade means to preserve their accreditation. In light of this all grades are appealable to the department chair, dean, and finally a university level process.

Decisions on punishment are made with a similar level of due process and appeals. This is to protect the student as well as the university. Adjuncts and grad students teach many classes and frequently act outside of documented and established parameters. Tenure track do this as well, though with less regularity and with a heavier focus on senior tenured and emeritus faculty than untenured or recently tenured profs (senility and cantankerousness being the leading cause of problems).

Of course for classes and majors that are unimportant like liberal and fine arts I guess it is of no matter. Though our universities would be better off by their wholesale removal than by allowing such chaos in their governance. Universities and colleges should only teach empirical sciences (i.e. no social), math, and their applications (engineering, computer science, business, accounting).
11.19.2008 11:06am
Uh_Clem (mail):
One aspect of this story that I find striking is the lack of evidence that Mr. Young clearly defined plagiarism in the syllabus.

If you read enough of his rantings, it actually becomes quite clear what the standard is: it's whatever Mr Young says it is, and he reserves the right for himself to be the sole lawmaker, policeman, judge, jury, and executioner.

Agree that he has failed to teach, but after reading his chip-on-the-shoulder syllabus one can't but surmize that his main agenda was punishing his students, not teaching them.
11.19.2008 11:11am
Uh_Clem (mail):
Universities and colleges should only teach empirical sciences (i.e. no social), math, and their applications (engineering, computer science, business, accounting).

I love the smell of ignorance in the morning. It smells like victory.
11.19.2008 11:20am
David M. Nieporent (www):
One aspect of this story that I find striking is the lack of evidence that Mr. Young clearly defined plagiarism in the syllabus, or that he presented his students with a rigorous explanations of his expectations with regard to the use and citation of external sources.

Students aren't born knowing academic rules, they have to be taught them, and they're taught them in the classroom. A professor who imposes draconian punishments for students' failure to meet a standard he has not clearly defined has failed in the most fundamental task of the teacher -- he has failed to teach.
Students aren't born knowing how to read or write, either. But by the time they get to college, they're expected to know these things. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. There may be some vagueness in the phrase "any other form of dishonesty," but plagiarism is pretty obviously plagiarism.
11.19.2008 11:52am
FlimFlamSam:
Forget FERPA, as a civil defense attorney I can say that the potential defamation liability is astronomical here.
11.19.2008 12:17pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
Truly interesting.

In addition to the over-all tone of his writing, and his apparent desire to use this event as an opportunity to vent his pique at Joe Biden's election, I draw certain conclusions from the fact that while Mr. Young links, in his class blog posts, to such things as a definition of "obiter dicta" (and I will not speculate further as to why he'd even use that phrase in a post to undergraduate MIS students), while he repeatedly references the syllabus, admonishes students to read it, admonishes them not to ask questions unless/until they've read it, none of those admonitions apparently includes a link to the damn thing...

I have a vague recollection of a legal philosophy piece that I read as an undergrad (Lon Fuller, perhaps) about various ways of unjust law-making; one of them was IIRC, a Roman emperor who inscribed new enactments on the pediment of the Senate, where they could not possibly be read by the populace. This has that feeling to it...
11.19.2008 12:44pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
A right to have one's cheating held private? Especially after you have been given prior warning. If the students were uncomfortable with that policy then they should have brought it up with the professor and the administration. Evidently they didn't, and I hold that's a form of passive consent. Moreover, public shaming is an effective tool for behavior modification. In this case the behavior we want modified is cheating and plagiarism. What's the matter with that? Are you people just plain daft?

Funny how the university is so worried about student's right to cheat, but not their right to expression an unpopular opinion.
11.19.2008 12:57pm
J. Thelwell (www):
I teach as an adjunct at a City University of New York college. We have a very strong academic integrity policy and we're required to include it in our syllabi. I would absolutely fail any student I found to be cheating or committing plagiarism *and* (this is the important part) refer the charges to the appropriate committee for review. If possible, I would hold off giving the grade until after the review. It would never occur to me to publicize either action. If the committee on academic integrity determined that there was no plagiarism, I would need to revisit my grading decision. Texas A&M obviously has a policy and procedure for dealing with these incidents, and it was completely inappropriate for the professor to impose his own -- probably illegal -- sanction of public humiliation.

Not every charge of plagiarism is justified; because of that, and the severe damage such charges can do to a student's academic career, virtually every university has established mechanisms to investigate them. Circumventing them in this way creates significant issues of fairness, as well as potentially opening the university up to sanctions and civil suits. Very irresponsible behavior by the adjunct.
11.19.2008 1:18pm
Latinist:
@hey:
People often talk about the rigorous grading standards in engineering and other subjects as if this led to self-evidently good net effects. I don't think that's the case.

In most graduate (non-professional schools), including at least many hard-science ones, grades are basically irrelevant and no one worries about them. That's a pretty good way to prevent people from cheating to bring up their grades.

By contrast (from what I've heard; maybe other commenters can correct me), at medical schools and law schools, grades are extremely important; and at those schools, you hear a lot more about cheating, as well as other bad student practices (sabotaging other students' studying, cramming the night before an exam, etc.).

I tend to think that grading (at least in the humanities) should be done away with entirely. There are advantages to the kind of strict, no-excuses grading that some people like to boast about, but let's not pretend it doesn't have costs, too.
11.19.2008 1:23pm
Smallholder (mail) (www):
Stealthpundit wrote:

My daughter is a student at UVa and the sole punishment for an Honor System violation (lying, cheating or stealing) is dismissal from the University. In fact, a few years ago a number of graduates had their degrees revoked when it was proven that they had cheated on an exam. There is an upside to this of course. Around Charlottesville a student's word is considered pretty good bond

I hate to break it to you, Stealthpundit, but as someone who lives around Charlottesville, a student's word is not considered pretty good. In fact, the widespread cheating at the college is so well-known that it is a point of amusement - many UVA grads settle in the area and talk about the cheating culture freely. The existence of only one very harsh punishment - an academic death penality - effectively deters any student from ratting on any other student. Since no one rats, cheating has become widespread. The book Wisdom of Crowds anticipates what the next step is - if cheating is widespread, those who don't cheat are fools. No one wants to be a fool, so even more people cheat.

Of course, I'm sure that any UVA grads on the board and your daughter are exceptions to this generalization.
11.19.2008 2:31pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
Zarkov:

I now note from his CV that Mr. Young is a lawyer. I'm even more appalled (though it now gives those who want to trash-talk lawyers an opportunity to join Roy Mustang's trash-talking about professors).


I don't think anyone here's defending anyone's "right to cheat"; they're defending a student's right not to have his reputation publically trashed, (permanently, or for as long as Mr. Young's blog posting is cached somewhere) for committing what appears to be a subjectively defined "offense", and without any apparent opportunity to confront and respond to the accusation, and the accuser first, apparently at least in part because the accuser had a bug up his cowboy-hatted butt about the Democrats probably winning the election. (Check the date of the original "shaming" post.)

I don't know if there's yet been any independent determination of what the accused students did or didn't do, but I'm going to guess that in the event it turns out that one or more of them didn't do exactly what Mr. Young accuses them of having done, i.e., having committed plagiarism in a fashion warranting failing the class and risking expulsion, Mr. Young's public retraction will not be quite as conspicuous as his "public shaming" of them.
11.19.2008 3:00pm
Uh_Clem (mail):
I now note from his CV that Mr. Young is a lawyer.

In this blog post he describes himself as a "former lawyer". I wonder what happened? Perhaps he showed the same level of judgment and professionalism at that endevour that he's shown as a professor?

Or perhaps the same level of competence he's currently showing as the owner of a "website design and hosting" company:

From http://www.iycc.org/blog/1

Loye Young's blog

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11.19.2008 3:31pm
Angus Johnston (www):
There may be some vagueness in the phrase "any other form of dishonesty," but plagiarism is pretty obviously plagiarism.

There's not remotely a bright line between plagiarism and not-plagiarism, and since Mr. Young hasn't identified the nature of the plagiarism he claims to have discovered, it's impossible to say how gray of an area we're looking at here.

It's my experience as a teacher, students often learn next to nothing about research and attribution of sources in high school, and it is the professor's job in college to educate them about these subjects.
11.19.2008 6:26pm
Bama 1L:
I am sure that Stealthpundit's daughter is an excellent young scholar of high moral character. The latter quality is almost certainly due to her home or other influences and not to the University of Virginia's deeply flawed honor system. If she has any sort of idealism about personal integrity, I hope she manages to graduate with some shred of it left.

I have a graduate degree from UVa and was a teaching assistant and instructor in a humanities department for a total of eight semesters.

The Honor Code is a terrible mechanism for enforcing academic honesty. The single sanction is probably is worst defect, as it leads to a huge jury nullification problem. Students are not willing to expel permanently students who did something they might have done.

Many years ago when I was a TA, a student gave me a paper that had been plagiarized. By that I mean she typed out the exact words she found in a book on the same topic as the assignment and presented it as her own work without any attribution whatsoever. The odd language tipped me off. The professor instantly recognized the work as Professor So-and-So's classic treatise. The professor prosecuted the case himself and rested the entire case on the documentary evidence. The student admitted copying the book and knowing that it was cheating but said she was under a lot of stress. The jury found that the offense was not serious enough to warrant expulsion. Her only punishment was therefore the F we gave her: she was failing anyway--that's why she cheated--and a zero on the copied paper sealed her fate.

This type of thing happens a lot. I don't know any professors who really support the system, at least with regard to undergraduates. It probably works better in the professional schools. Between poor reporting and jury nullification, the system is broken.

Removing the single sanction would be an excellent first step toward repair. My undergraduate institution's honor code allowed flexible sanctions so that the punishment could fit the crime. Minor cheating was punished with sanctions such as course failure, failing all the course for the semester, or other appropriate measures short of permanent separation.

Having been one of them, I do not think UVa students had a particularly good reputation for honesty in the community. It's true every merchant will take a student's check, but that's because the Honor Committee will go after the student upon notification of a bad check. Indeed, bad checks used to be Honor Committee's primary concern--before that it was violence against faculty.
11.19.2008 9:16pm
Suzy (mail):
Happyshooter, you realized that you deserved a failing grade on the second paper simply because you turned in essentially the same paper you had used in another class?

There are two separate issues here: one is that the professor should be able to award whatever grade is judged appropriate. The student may then appeal. Only if there's a pattern of unfairness or poor judgment in the professor's grading should it become relevant to whether the professor keeps the job.

The other issue is that any time a professor accuses a student of academic dishonesty, the student should be able to explain the incident to the professor, and/or to some other party who is given the authority to judge and hand down sanctions as needed.
11.19.2008 10:36pm
Bama 1L:
At the time, womyns groups were pushing different types from actual unwanted sexual contact to my favorite--a woman is in the area of a man and without saying or doing anything he thinks of her as a sexual being without consent (psychic rape).

"But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."

Probably some feminist wacko.
11.19.2008 10:49pm
Loye Young (mail) (www):
I am the subject of the conversation here.

I've enjoyed reading the many posts here. I don't expect that everyone in the room would have done as I did; I'm just happy I did.

I've written at length on my blog and others about most of what's been discussed here, and if anyone wants more detailed comments, they can read for themselves at IYCC for Geeks.

For the legal-beagles:
I did the legal research ahead of time. FERPA doesn't apply, and it's not a close case. No educational record was ever created. Further, students don't have a privacy right if the the students themselves posted the work online.

Don't all schools give their teachers some sort of guidance (correct or not) about a students rights under FERPA?

It was the reverse. At the department chair's request, I analyzed the statute for the University and distributed my findings to the Chair, the Dean, the President, and the Provost, among others, about a week before I revealed the plagiarizers. To this day, no one has found fault with the analysis.

the potential defamation liability is astronomical here

No defamation/libel case here, either. I screened out the close calls. I know it's hard to believe, but these were open and shut cases. Five of the cases involved word-for-word copying, and the other involved minor rewriting. In fact, the plagiarized essays were flagged on the site and stayed online for the whole world to review for several days before and over a week after the announcement. No one disputes that plagiarism actually took place.

Texas A&M [International] obviously has a policy and procedure for dealing with these incidents, and it was completely inappropriate for the professor to impose his own — probably illegal — sanction of public humiliation.

The Honor Code specifically required me to "make known acts that violate the TAMIU Honor Code." I followed University procedures precisely, which encourage instructors to "automatically fail" a student for plagiarism.

Besides, the syllabus was reviewed line-by-line and approved by the Dean and the department chair at the beginning of the semester.

"lack of evidence that Mr. Young clearly defined plagiarism in the syllabus"
"it's whatever Mr Young says it is"

College students should be expected to know how to read and how to use a dictionary. Academic dishonesty is defined in the syllabus and University policy to include plagiarism. Plagiarism is defined by University policy and in many dictionaries. These were plagiarism under any definition.

to vent his pique at Joe Biden's election

You missed the point of the example. My point was that it was not until Biden's plagiarizing was publicly exposed did he change his ways. AFAIK, Joe Biden hasn't plagiarized in at least twenty years, so it's no longer an issue. He makes more than his share of gaffes, but most everyone has come to accept that. (I voted McCain/Palin for many reasons, but I kinda like Biden. He seems like a stand up guy. I hope the President-elect listens to him.)

none of those admonitions apparently includes a link to the damn thing

1. The University has an "official" place to post the syllabus for each class, and it was posted there.
2. I attached a copy of the syllabus to this posting. Document attachments are available after logging onto the site. If anyone is really interested in reading it, send me an email.

agenda was punishing his students, not teaching them.

I was actually hoping to deter plagiarizing in the first place. It's a time-consuming, pain-in-the-ass to check for plagiarism.

Happy Trails,

Loye Young
Isaac &Young Computer Company
Laredo, Texas
http://www.iycc.net

P.S. to Uh_Clem: Thanks for calling my attention to the bad SQL in the blog list module. It's fixed now. :-)
11.19.2008 11:49pm
Angus Johnston (www):
Mr. Young writes, in response to my wondering whether he explained plagiarism to his students:

College students should be expected to know how to read and how to use a dictionary. Academic dishonesty is defined in the syllabus and University policy to include plagiarism. Plagiarism is defined by University policy and in many dictionaries. These were plagiarism under any definition.

In other words, no, he didn't define plagiarism in the syllabus, and didn't take the time to discuss what does and doesn't constitute plagiarism in class.

Yes, I agree that students should know what does and doesn't constitute plagiarism, but the reality is that many do not. I'm a historian. There are a lot of things that "students should be expected to know" when they enter my classroom that many of them do not. If a student arrives in my classroom lacking some basic piece of information about the world, or about university policy, I don't fail her, and I certainly don't publicly humiliate her.

I teach her.
11.20.2008 6:55am
Ken Arromdee:
I screened out the close calls. I know it's hard to believe, but these were open and shut cases.

If so, then you only did a subset of what you're reserving the right to do. And what you actually did is fine, but what you reserve the right to do is not.

Failing a student because they copied an MP3 at home in a context completely unconnected to the class, and then publically humiliating them, is inappropriate. It's nice that you didn't do that, but troublesome that you're willing to.

(And does a DMCA violation count as a "copyright violation"? Can a student get failed for watching a DVD under Linux? And what happens if a student claims that he's not violating copyright, for instance because he thinks it's fair use? Whether he's violating copyright would be a decision for a court to decide, but he can't very well go to court over it if he's not being sued at the moment. Or do you just not let students claim fair use when you fail them for copyright violation?)
11.20.2008 3:10pm
Loye Young (www):
To Ken Arromdee, regarding your issues about media, etc.

Your eisegesis of the syllabus is understandable given that you haven't had direct access to it.

The lingo about copyright violations and software piracy was specifically related to the coursework, which was Management Information Systems. The students were expected to comply with copyright and software licensing requirements throughout the course, and I make no apology for that. Law and morality demand no less.

When completing the coursework, the students were required to use only free and open source software, consistent with the licenses. One of the two projects required of each member of the class to build their own ecommerce website on their own hardware. The other project required the use of SQL database software. Thus, the syllabus provisions were in fact directly related to the course.

Although I don't quite get why your examples have much to do with this thread, I'll briefly tell you a what I think, FWIW.

First, While I do have an definite opinion on the subject, I would have no reason to know or care about their MP3s at home. (Besides, bootlegging MP3s is passe around these parts. Prices for legit music are low enough that all the cool kids download their music from the iStore, MTV, and Rhapsody.)

Second, (and hopefully the thread won't get hijacked over this) I wouldn't have any reason to complain about DVDs on Linux. 17 U.S.C. 1201(f) grants a safe harbor. If you look at the history of this Wikipedia article and of this one, you'll see that I wrote significant parts of both of them. I also wrote this and others to the same effect. See also the instructions to the grab-key script.

(The IYCC Laredo Cuadrado System is a Linux system with full DVD support out of the box. Be the first in your LUG to get one!)

Third, if presented with a case of copyright violation, I would adjust the response to fit the situation, just like I did in the instant case. Blatant and public violations would be corrected in public and might be appropriately subject to a failing grade. Trivial violations would be ignored. In the middle are a wide range of situations, most all of which would be an opportunity for all the students to learn about real-world MIS issues.
11.20.2008 11:05pm
Ken Arromdee:
While I do have an definite opinion on the subject, I would have no reason to know or care about their MP3s at home.

The quote doesn't seem to limit it to copyright violations that have something to do with the course and instead says, flat-out, that you may at your discretion fail students for any copyright violation whatsoever. Again, what you did is fine; what you reserve the right to do, not so much.

17 U.S.C. 1201(f) grants a safe harbor.

You'd think so, and certainly a straightforward reading of the law would imply that. However, from Universal City Studios v. Reimerdes:


Third, the Appellants argue that an individual who buys a DVD has the "authority of the copyright owner" to view the DVD, and therefore is exempted from the DMCA pursuant to subsection 1201(a)(3)(A) when the buyer circumvents an encryption technology in order to view the DVD on a competing platform (such as Linux). The basic flaw in this argument is that it misreads subsection 1201(a)(3)(A). That provision exempts from liability those who would "decrypt" an encrypted DVD with the authority of a copyright owner, not those who would "view" a DVD with the authority of a copyright owner.


Now, this makes no sense anyway, and you can argue that Chamberlin v. Skylink contradicted it, but I don't recall any cases which says that this no longer counts.

(I assume you don't really mean 1201(f), which is about reverse engineering, unless you think a court would rule that a DVD is a "computer program".)
11.21.2008 12:30am
Michael J.Z. Mannheimer (mail):
Angus Johnston,

So, in other words, if your student is too lazy to find out what plagiarism is from the appropriate source, you spoon-feed her the information. You are doing her a tremendous favor.
11.21.2008 1:45am