found this on digg

I guess I should not be surprised that there is software to help you ferret out cheaters. The article amazes me. The italics are mine.

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA | Thursday March 9, 2006

Mount Saint Vincent University has turned off


“It’s an absolute win for us, and I’m thrilled that our senate is willing to recognize the issues that students have raised,” student union president Chantal Brushett, one of four student members of the university’s senate, said Tuesday in an interview.

<snip> is an Internet-based subscription service that professors and others use to root out whether students’ papers contain material copped from other sources without giving proper credit. It maintains a database of millions of essays and compares submitted papers not only against those but also against websites and other published works.

It’s recognized as a leader in helping keep students, academics, and sometimes journalists, honest.

But many student groups believe that using a service like Turnitin is too punitive and automatically presumes guilt. Studies have shown that about 15 per cent of university students cheat regularly.

“Everyone has the right to learn in an environment that is free of guilt presumption and fear, and does exactly what it shouldn’t be doing in a higher educational environment,” Ms. Brushett said. “It creates a culture of fear, it creates a culture of guilt and to me, that hinders some people from pursuing higher education and doing it with an open mind.”

She said the student union was also concerned that the U.S.-based service could be subject to searches under the far-reaching Patriot Act. Students were also worried about intellectual property rights.

Relying on recommendations from a joint faculty-student committee, the Mount voted to ban the service “and any other plagiarism detection software that requires that students’ work become part of an external database where other parties might have access to it.”


The Dal student union plans to ask administrators to allow students to opt out of the service. President Ezra Edelstein said his members share some of the concerns of Mount students and are also troubled about privacy and copyright issues.

Mr. O’Hara says he understands fears about the U.S. Patriot Act, but the service has a privacy policy. Because it’s a subscription-only service, even subscribers are limited in what they can see, he said.

“The opt-out, that’s just going to feed into people’s hands that . . . have been cheating their way through their education.”

But professors also have a responsibility to get to know their students and to do their own homework to suss out the cheaters, Ms. Brushett said.

“We feel that is a back-end approach. We need to promote academic integrity, we need to teach students what is plagiarism, what you should do, what you shouldn’t do and have more personalized ways of checking for plagiarism.

“I don’t think is a necessary tool when it comes to teaching students.”


The privacy and intellectual ownership issue is important. I don’t, however, follow the argument that using the software assumes guilt. If someone is not plagiarizing, then absent privacy and intellectual ownership issues, why would they care?

I also wonder the effect this might have on the school’s reputation. I honestly don’t know.

I bet that Ms. Brushett has never taught a class of 120 students who write papers. And 15% of students cheat. Wow. Just wow.


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