Honor system task force considers making plagiarism module mandatory

Though the newly admitted class of 2016 already has a new requirement to fulfill — the mandatory writing course English 105 — another obligation for this fall might be in the works.

As part of an ongoing reform of UNC’s honor system, officials have proposed requiring all incoming freshmen and transfer students to complete a teaching module about plagiarism, in an effort to introduce students to the Honor Code.

Previously, officials said the module might be ready for fall of 2013, but the program should now be available online as early as this summer.

Members of the honor system task force, which met on Monday, are still debating whether the test should be mandatory.

Jan Boxill, chairwoman of the faculty, said the plagiarism module still needs to be approved by the Division of Student Affairs and student government in order to become mandatory.

If the module is made mandatory, Boxill said some have proposed that students take the test as part of the new English 105 course. The class is a combination of 101 and 102 that all incoming freshmen are required to take starting this fall.

Chancellor Holden Thorp has already endorsed the idea of the teaching module being made mandatory, she added.

Dean of Students Jonathan Sauls said the goal of the module is to prevent Honor Code violations from happening in the first place, since students aren’t always aware they are plagiarizing.

The project’s two main student organizers agreed.

Student Attorney General Amanda Claire Grayson and Morgan Bolling, the outgoing honor system outreach coordinator, said they hope to reduce the number of students brought to the Honor Court.

“The main focus is … announcing the expectations for honor and integrity. It’s more about making clear the expectations, giving students practical tips about what resources to use and how to avoid violating the Honor Code,” Grayson said.

She said unauthorized collaboration is a common violation students unknowingly commit.

“It might be that students didn’t know they weren’t allowed to work on a lab report together,” Grayson said.

The two said they also want the lesson to start as optional, and to work out any kinks in the model before making it mandatory.

Don Boulton, a retired faculty member on the Faculty Council, said at the meeting that the University should emphasize at the beginning of a student’s academic career that it is committed to academic integrity.

“We are not teaching it; we are announcing it,” he said.

Maria Woodrow, a high school junior who was touring UNC Monday, said she thinks the module should be required because she wants to understand the Honor Code before enrolling.

“The more people read about it, the more it’ll be enforced,” she said.

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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