Hi 81 / Lo 73
|Volume 71, Issue 154,
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Revoking degrees shouldn't take 20 years
Imagine a few years from now. Life after college is rewarding, and you are proud of your college-graduate status.
Then imagine getting a letter from your beloved alma mater stating that your degree is going to be revoked like some worthless video rental membership card. That is exactly what some alumni from Ohio State University are hearing from their graduate school, The Athens News reported this month.
OSU has sent out letters to more than 50 mechanical engineering students who the university believes plagiarized on their master theses. Some of the degrees in question were awarded more than 20 years ago.
OSU is within its legal rights to withdraw master's degrees if the alumni fail to respond to the letters. The university has some fault in this scenario, which could potentially ruin careers.
The Internet as we now know it didn't exist 20 years ago. Faculty couldn't Google the paper online to search for evidence of cheating. But college professors and their grading assistants have always been on the lookout for plagiarism.
Let's say that there are plagiarizers enrolled at universities across the nation, maybe even at UH, highly unlikely as that is. If they do get away with cheating, the school shouldn't wait 20 years before sending a letter telling students their degrees have been revoked.
The school is giving the alumni three options to choose from if their degree is in jeopardy. They can voluntarily forfeit the degrees; they can submit a request to rewrite the thesis, in which the student will be assigned a different thesis adviser; or the student can request a hearing to challenge the allegation.
We don't condone plagiarism or defend cheaters of any kind. Any student caught cheating should suffer the consequences. Those consequences, however, should be leveled in a timely manner.
A university should scrutinize every written word that is turned in for credit, especially in a master's program, so things like retroactive flunking don't happen.
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