The double standard of Ctrl+V

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By Lee Richardson

The notion of value for an university education gets bandied about quite regularly. This seems to be especially the case in Ontario, where students (or their parents) fork over more money for tuition than any other province in Canada.

The topic has recently been dragged up again with the news of a textbook deemed mandatory to a class of OCAD art students. The book failed to include images of actual art, instead recommending students refer to online books.

In the aftermath of the news, debate spread around instructors liberally assigning books deemed as mandatory that students may only read once or twice over the course of a semester.

The act of having to buy textbooks which should be reconsidered as mandatory is not just restricted to students in art schools.

Or schools in Toronto, Ontario or even Canada, for that matter.

Complaints about textbooks are a part of university.

Another complaint often heard, by me at least, is the usefulness of classes themselves. While I cannot speak for other programs, I can say that some material in journalism courses could be seen as not exactly worthy of the money we’re paying.

For example, a class partially dedicated to explaining how to effectively use Twitter – in other words, retweeting and using hashtags – has had myself and acquaintances wondering what an education is worth.

More recently, the value of a degree has been highlighted in a story in this week’s news section. Our reporter, Mohamed Omar, learned that a professor at the school of business has been using material copied from online sources such as Wikipedia and unacademic blogs in his class presentations. A significant amount of it had not been cited in his slides.

Through an investigation The Eyeopener found that the professor, who has been teaching at Ryerson since 1976, has never been told of the university’s attitude towards citations of class material.

Frankly, this is shocking. For a university not to have a determined citation policy for instructors makes a mockery of any students who think they are being provided with original material. During interviews it was learned that if the same material was presented at an academic conference, and found out, it would be considered as plagiarism. In a learning environment, it is not.

This double standard only reinforces the idea that universities are steering towards profitable research and away from the students – the same students pumping money into the universities to achieve what they are told is a ‘valuable’ education.

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