By Jordan Press
Last week, McGill University caved in and graded papers a second-year student even though he refused to submit it to Turnitin.com.
McGill student Jesse Rosenfeld was successful in his appeal of a failing grade he received on an assignment he wouldn’t submit to the American-based anti-plagiarism Web site. After a lengthy appeal, Rosenfeld received marks for his work.
According to RyeSAC president Ken Marciniec, Ryerson students who refuse to hand in papers to Turnitin.com may have to go through a similar lengthy process because Ryerson doesn’t have a formal policy on the controversial Web site.
Marciniec said the university has no plan for dealing with students who won’t hand in their assignments to Turnitin.com.
“Basically, we have no standard here at Ryerson,” Marciniec said.
Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse said the events at McGill haven’t shaken his commitment to the anti-plagiarism Web site. He says that while using the Internet service may not be perfect, it’s the best avenue Ryerson has for making sure students are doing their own work.
“I think that any approach that you will take will have its own challenges, and no approach is perfect,” Lajeunesse said. “But I still think that Turnitin is a tool that is very useful and that we should continue to use.
“There is no magic solution. Turnitin is not the solution, but it is one of the solutions.”
Lajeunesse added Ryerson is looking at ways to improve policy regarding Turnitin.com to avoid a McGill-like standoff.
Ryerson started using the Web service last year at an annual cost of about $5,000 to dissuade students from cheating on their assignments.
The Web site scans students’ essays and assignments against its database of papers, looking for plagiarised passages. It then spits out an “originality report” for the professor, showing which sections of the paper may have been lifted from someone else’s work. It is then up to the marker to decide if the work is original.
All assignments submitted to Turnitin.com then get stored in its memory to be used as reference for future checks.
It is estimated the site’s database grows by about 15,000 papers a day, including books, articles and journals.