Thursday, 11 June 2009
Of Plagiarism...Agony...and Anguish
My colleague, the Reb, blogged about headaches and time wastage in having to write 12 warning letters to the seminary students for offences such as late submission of assignments and, most of all, plagiarism! I concur with the Reb that the what we have detected thus far is simply the tip of the iceberg.
I have been agonising over the issue of plagiarism since I started teaching in the seminary. Personally, I have detected a fair number of plagiarism. This is something I just simply could not understand - why can't the students just footnote it? Is it that difficult to just footnote it?
More than anything, it causes me deep pain and anguish every time I have to confront the students concerning issues of plagiarism. No matter how stern my warning is concerning the crime of plagiarism in the beginning of every course I teach, I still have students ignoring the plea for academic integrity both in the submission of assignments and theses.
Beyond wasting my time (which can be profitably used otherwise in my research and writing) in checking the references and sources, beyond the sleepless nights I experience in agonizing over the issue of having to confront my students, and beyond the disappointment that some of the students actually blamed the lecturers for exposing their act of plagiarism, is the issue of why the students continue to plagiarise despite all the warnings. Have we not considered plagiarism as a crime which is a deeper reflection of the fundamental issue of our integrity, character formation, and honesty? And if we cannot be honest with ourselves and uphold academic integrity while being trained in the seminary, can we remain faithful when we serve in Christian ministry in the future?
Someone once told me that he is shocked to hear that would-be-pastors would commit plagiarism and he wondered about the future of the church if such candidates were sent to seminary.
My plea is this: please do not plagiarise. Just footnote it. Be honest with yourself - before God and human. It causes the lecturers more pain than the students will ever know when we detect the act of plagiarism.