Sunday, March 20, 2011

A professor who didn't recognize plagiarism of his own work

Tim Hunt, once of Northern Illinois University and now in Idaho recounted a plagiarism incident at NIU:

When I was teaching freshman English at Northern Illinois University, long before the age of computers and the Internet, instructors would post suspect essays on the bulletin board of our coffee room. We had a staff of about 120 graduate students, instructors and professors and we would all take a gander. Most of the time someone was familiar with the source and the offender would be caught. Some students probably escaped detection but the harsh penalties we meted out deterred some timid souls from trying to fool their instructors.

One essay about Chaucer posted quite a while was finally identified by a lowly instructor. The essay, copied virtually word for word, came from a publication written 25 years before by the very professor who posted it. The red faced professor got plenty of teasing for not being able to identify his own scholarly work but the student got more than teasing, an F in the course.

The University of Chicago made out well in the post:

Another friend and colleague took his doctorate in English at the University of Chicago, a really good place; one professor told his students they did not need to footnote sources because he had read and remembered them all, anyway. I guess plagiarism was not an issue in those classes but such things are very rare.

***Also on NIU

Part of the process that received a Nobel Prize?


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