Do you feel the learner violated the university policies on academic honesty? What do you see as the academic honesty issue involved?
The PhD learner in question has clearly violated the Capella University policies on academic honesty. The learner has engaged in plagiarism, as clearly defined in the University's policy statement on academic honesty as including the "rephrasing [of] ideas of another without properly acknowledging the source" (pg. 1). The statement further clarifies that sources that require citing include "information and opinions gained through other people," which would apply directly to this particular learner's use of other student's postings. The case study presented suggests that the learner does not directly submit the papers that he purchases over the Internet, but rather that he first revises them and then submits them. This caveat may lead some to believe that he has not violated the academic honesty regulations of the university, but indeed he has. The use of anyone else's ideas or opinions constitutes plagiarism if the ideas are not properly cited. Furthermore, the academic honesty policy clearly states that collaboration is not acceptable unless explicitly allowed for by the professor. Purchasing papers on the Internet and then re-working them to be submitted as one's own work could in fact be considered a form of collaboration with some unknown source on the Internet. Finally, the very act of purchasing a paper over the Internet to assist in the completion of one's own work is against the spirit of academic integrity.
What are the options available to you?
The options available are very clear, as they have been set forth in the policy statement of Capella University on Academic Honesty. The policy statement clearly states "Capella University learners, faculty, and staff share the responsibility to promptly report any suspected violation of academic honesty" (pg. 1). This statement could not be any more clear, and not only does it compel a member of the University community to report violations of academic honesty, but it extends this to the suspicion of academic dishonesty. In this particular case study, there is no suspicion, the learner has directly stated that he has purchased papers and used the ideas of other students repeatedly throughout his PhD career. Thus, the only option available is to report this learner to his supervisor, the department head or an appropriate member of the graduate studies department.
If you were in charge, how would you go about resolving this problem? What steps would you take?
I would initially need to investigate the issue to determine whether or not the reported incident was true. I would want to speak with the other students who had heard the statements from the student in question, and I would also want to speak with the professors of this student about his previous work performance. Eventually I would want to speak to the student himself. Although the university policies allow for multiple avenues of resolution, I believe that the only appropriate resolution in this case would be dismissal from the university. This is not a case of an error in judgment, a mistake in omitting proper citations, or even a one time deliberate act of academic dishonesty under the pressures of being a PhD learner. This case study represents deliberate, willful and continued academic dishonesty which threatens the integrity of every degree granted by Capella University and as such needs to be met with the harshest of consequences.
If this is truly an academic community, what is your role as a learner in helping create an environment that aspires to the highest standards of academic integrity?
Academic integrity is not to be created through a "watch dog" system. Although it is every community member's responsibility to report instances of academic dishonesty, this reporting should not be seen as the means for creating an honest academic environment. Academic integrity must be built by open discussion of the topic, by creating value in the learning process, and in respecting the viewpoints of others. The generation of academic thought must be seen as something deeply personal, valuable and cherished, and it is then that academic dishonesty will be seen not as "rule breaking" but as a truly offensive and hurtful act by which all members of the community will be affronted.