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6027 Views 71 Replies Latest reply: Nov 29, 2007 3:20 PM by PeterP002 RSS 1 2 3 ... 5 Previous Next
Leggova Rookie 99 posts since
Jun 24, 2002
Currently Being Moderated

Nov 27, 2007 4:29 PM

An ethical dilemma - What would you do?

I have a PhD student who took an English course of mine. Throughout the course they have to write a series of tasks. One of the drafts he handed into me had some plagiarism. I saw him in my office, explained what he had done wrong, told him he had to cite and paraphrase in order not to plagiarise.

Anyway, he has handed in the final portfolio and one task is about 80% from wikipedia (a crime as it is for a PhD student!) and one task is about 80% copied from another student.

The policy of the university is that I inform the Graduate School who inform the Disciplinary Committee and he will have to go to them and argue his case. It is most likely that he will be suspended for a period of time, maybe a month or at most a semester.

The dilemma is that in doing this, his supervisor will find out. Over the last few days, after I called him to tell him that I am failing him and sending informing the Graduate School, he has been BEGGING me not to do it. He wants me to fail him and let him take the course again but not inform the Grad School. Here are his reasons…

He is from Mainland China, He has given up a good job in China to come and study at this university. His is financially in debt not only to his family but also his former workplace who are paying for him to study here. If his supervisor finds out he will "sack" him and he will forced be to go back to the Mainland. This will be very humiliating for him to tell his family, friends and former workplace and it will basically be, he says, the end of his life as he will never be able to get into another university. He is emotionally isolated here and has no one to talk to.

I am very very worried about his mental state. In Hong Kong there have been a spate of Mainland students committing suicide and from talking to him, I could imagine that if the above all happens, he could be one of them.

So, basically the dilemma is what to do. I believe in punishment fitting the crime. Him getting suspended for a period of time I am happy with. I believe that is apt punishment. Him getting kicked out of HK and having his life ruined doesn't not fit the crime I believe. I believe that if he DOES goes home while his life will not be ruined he will find it very difficult to get into another university and basically that will alter the course of his life and all the work he has done up to now will be wasted. But I also think that if I compromise on this, I don’t in fact have any standards as a professional. Standards should be fixed even for the difficult cases. But maybe it is ethically wrong to uphold those standards in this context.

What do you all think?

  • bigapplepie Legend 2,455 posts since
    Dec 14, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Nov 27, 2007 4:36 PM (in response to Leggova)
    Re: An ethical dilemma - What would you do?

    You have to follow the school policy. His mental health is not your concern.

  • taylormade050 Pro 77 posts since
    Aug 24, 2004
    Currently Being Moderated
    2. Nov 27, 2007 4:36 PM (in response to Leggova)
    Re: An ethical dilemma - What would you do?

    I think this is not your decision.  You stated that the university has a policy.  I do not believe that you should attempt to circumvent the university policy.

  • MiniDriver Rookie 259 posts since
    Dec 14, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    3. Nov 27, 2007 4:39 PM (in response to Leggova)
    Re: An ethical dilemma - What would you do?

    I think you need to follow through on official procedure.  You've explained to him what plagiarism is, and how to avoid it and he's repeated his mistakes.

    As for getting sacked and sent back home, that may be the best thing. He's clearly not honest in his approach to his education and thus won't get much from it.

    Are there any campus counselors you could tip off about him being in a precarious academic position?

  • Laura on a bike099 Rookie 183 posts since
    Feb 22, 2005
    Currently Being Moderated
    5. Nov 27, 2007 4:42 PM (in response to Leggova)
    Re: An ethical dilemma - What would you do?

    You have to follow university policy.  He should not have cheated and he knew the policy.  Honestly copying from wikipedia at a PhD level should involve severe punishment.  I  imagine if any of his fellow cohorts found out that he managed to skate through after committing such a ridiculous intellectual crime, they would want to stone him.

  • bigapplepie Legend 2,455 posts since
    Dec 14, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    7. Nov 27, 2007 4:44 PM (in response to Leggova)
    Re: An ethical dilemma - What would you do?

    quote:


    Originally posted by Leggova:

    I tend to agree that I have to stick with the policy, but I disagree that his mental health is not my concern. Seeing someone suffering and not doing anything is ethically wrong. I wouldn't not walk away from someone hurt in the street, and as the person's teacher I think I have some duty of care.

    I have already sent him the details of the student councelling service.


     



    Stop being so naive! He's pushing you're buttons. The guy is a cheat. He'll do anything to avoid going home.

  • tazawa055 Rookie 281 posts since
    Dec 14, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    8. Nov 27, 2007 4:46 PM (in response to Leggova)
    Re: An ethical dilemma - What would you do?

    quote:


    Originally posted by Leggova:

    They probably do it too !http://www.coolrunning.com/forums/frown.gif|src=http://www.coolrunning.com/forums/frown.gif|border=0!


     



    That's the tough thing here.  I don't know about mainland China, but Japan has only begun to practice rigorous citing in the  last few years.  They have had a pretty weak tradition of intellectual property.  I feel for you.

  • cindyleigh Rookie 65 posts since
    Aug 22, 2005
    Currently Being Moderated
    9. Nov 27, 2007 4:47 PM (in response to Leggova)
    Re: An ethical dilemma - What would you do?

    quote:


    Originally posted by Leggova:

    The policy of the university is that I inform the Graduate School who inform the Disciplinary Committee and he will have to go to them and argue his case.


     



    Follow the policy, his fate is up to the Disciplinary Committee ..not you...although I doubt they will be swayed by his defense.

  • Lintu Rookie 191 posts since
    Dec 14, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    11. Nov 27, 2007 4:50 PM (in response to Leggova)
    Re: An ethical dilemma - What would you do?

    It's tough...on the one hand, I think a PhD candidate who sources from wikipedia, of all places, deserves pretty significant shame.  However, I wouldn't want him to come to serious harm because of it.

  • Ripplerun Rookie 222 posts since
    Dec 10, 2002
    Currently Being Moderated
    12. Nov 27, 2007 4:51 PM (in response to Leggova)
    Re: An ethical dilemma - What would you do?

    quote:


    Originally posted by Leggova:


    He is definitely manipulating me, but I also genuinely believe he is at risk. You really think I should just ignore that?

    I think you don't really understand the cultural context and what potential shame he will go through. I am not saying that this will change what I will do, I am planning on following policy, but this case has made me pause for thought unlike any other plagiarism case I have had, and I have had many!


     



    Go with your gut feeling...we're not robots for God's sake -- I don't know the solution, though.  Sorry.

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