The student members of the Academic Infractions Board are advising that the school implement Turnitin, an online program for submitting assignments, across a number of classes on campus, particularly introductoryß courses. This suggestion was made partially due to a review of the results from a recent voluntary survey sent to students via email.
The survey, assembled by the Committee of Academic Services, collected opinions from students of all grade levels on topics like the senior exercise (comps) and academic advising. Turnitin makes it easier for professors to check papers for plagiarism. The program is already used by a number of courses at Kenyon, particularly in the biology and chemistry departments. While the response to Turnitin has been generally positive, some students expressed concerns regarding its expansion into other courses. Anxieties ranged from worries that professors would have reduced control over their own teaching methods, to questions of intellectual property ownership, according to the survey. Some students believed that once they had submitted a paper to Turnitin, they would no longer have the right to publish it elsewhere.
“Another [concern] was that it would affect the student-faculty trust relationship,” Sriya Chadalavada ’19, student chair of the Committee of Academic Services, said. “From the onset it would be assumed that someone out there was cheating, and you would always be checked, or they were always watching you.”
While Chadalavada believes that many of the students’ concerns are valid, she said the benefits of Turnitin ultimately outweigh its downsides. According to Turnitin’s privacy pledge, the company doesn’t claim property rights to anything submitted, and the Academic Affairs Committee doesn’t plan to force professors to implement the program.
Moreover, Turnitin educates students about the dangers of plagiarism, an issue Chadalavada thinks is particularly important. Chadalavada is a member of the Academic Infractions Board, and often deals with students who plagiarized an assignment without meaning to do so.
“If a freshman [commits plagiarism], the understanding is that they didn’t understand what plagiarism was,” Chadalavada explained. “It’s understood that they’re a freshman and they just got to Kenyon. Versus if a senior comes in, then it’s very hard to be lenient. If possible, students should understand very early on what plagiarism is.”
Other findings of the survey include general satisfaction with faculty mentorship programs and some concern regarding the fairness of senior comprehensive exercises across departments. While Academic Affairs doesn’t have the authority to change anything on campus, they have presented their findings at faculty meetings and received positive reactions.
“Professors had a lot of engaging questions to ask,” Chadalavada told us, “and I answered them to the best of our ability. I don’t know if they’ll definitely make any policy changes, but I think they will be considered and will be used in a productive manner.”