College to review plagiarism and ethics policies

 

GALWAY-MAYO Institute of Technology has invited staff to review its policy on plagiarism and student assessments following recent controversies at the third-level institution.

This follows a call for disciplinary measures against a lecturer who was found to have been party to a “prima facie” case of misconduct.

The college has also found that its school of business originally treated the misconduct allegation as a “minor” case of plagiarism by a student, when it should have been considered as “major” and should have been dealt with at senior management level.

The institute’s academic council met yesterday evening to consider a number of issues, and is expected to make a statement early next week.

However, the college has confirmed that staff have been invited to join a number of working groups on plagiarism, student assessment, ethics and other policy issues.

The incident which has led to the call for staff disciplinary procedures relates to the alleged use of an instructor’s manual by a master’s student in the institute’s school of business during the 2009-10 academic year. The manual, which includes model answers to questions, is restricted to lecturers only by a password obtained from the publisher. It was alleged that the password was given to the master’s student by the lecturer.

Another lecturer who was assessing the written and verbal presentation of analysis by master’s students in November 2009 found there were significant similarities between the written analysis presented by one of the students and the suggested solution in the manual.

It is understood that this other lecturer made an initial complaint to her head of department, and it is understood she was asked whether she was aware the student was a member of a senior GAA team in Galway.

The lecturer took the case further when she received no response, but was told the incident of alleged plagiarism was “minor”.

However, an internal inquiry subsequently held in the college’s school of business found the student to be guilty of plagiarism.

The student’s original mark for the piece of work in question was reduced by 50 per cent. He graduated last autumn.

The case was one of a series of controversies involving the college over the past year, and led to two reviews by the college registrar and human resources manager.

The college says the outcome of the review is that all formal complaints of plagiarism will be forwarded to the registrar, and the academic council has approved establishment of a working group to draft a code of practice on plagiarism, which will “build” on an existing code of policy.

The college registrar will also be involved in reviewing any school decisions relating to allegations of bad practice, and school plagiarism committees have been dissolved.

The institute says it is “not in a position to reopen the matter” relating to how the original complaint was handled and how the student was disciplined. It says its registrar accepted that members of the disciplinary committee handling the case at the time “acted in good faith”.

However, staff are believed to be unhappy with what they perceive to be the “singling out” of one lecturer, the perception of favouritism shown to students involved in the GAA, and the college management’s failure to censure the original handling of the complaint.

Staff attending a meeting in one of the institute’s schools two months ago voiced concern about a lack of support from management when issues with students arose, according to minutes seen by The Irish Times.