The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday May 31st

McAdoo case raises issues of plagiarism and academic standards

Former North Carolina defensive end Michael McAdoo’s lawsuit against UNC and the NCAA has brought to light the issue of plagiarism and how it is defined and monitored by the University and other institutions.

The paper on which McAdoo was found to have received impermissible academic assistance also appeared to have several plagiarized sections.

But in October, McAdoo was found guilty by the UNC Honor Court of only one count of academic fraud — having his citations formatted by former tutor Jennifer Wiley.

At the end of the NCAA appeals teleconference in December, McAdoo stated he was not aware that he had done anything wrong in receiving help on his paper in a Swahili class.

“I would like to clarify one thing,” he said. “I wrote the entire paper and found all my sources and identified them. The tutor helped me with formatting because I thought that was OK. I did not intentionally seek out impermissible assistance.”

According to the Instrument of Student Judicial Governance, “academic dishonesty” is comprised of plagiarism, misrepresentation of data, unauthorized assistance, cheating and falsifying information or documents.

But NCAA bylaws define academic misconduct only as “knowing involvement in arranging for fraudulent academic credit.”

Deborah Gerhardt, a professor in the School of Law, said that this discrepancy in definitions is common with cases of plagiarism.

“Plagiarism is not always defined by the same standards. Schools define it differently and apply their own penalties to it.

“The NCAA could apply a standard for academic integrity that is different from the plagiarism rules we have at UNC,” she said.

McAdoo’s lawyers argue that his apparent lack of clarification on what constituted academic misconduct was an important factor in determining his guilt or innocence. In a letter to the NCAA on June 3, McAdoo’s lawyers said the NCAA ignored this factor when making its decision on his eligibility.

“This is a valid basis for concern — if there is evidence that he did not know he was committing a violation, and ‘knowing’ is a part of the NCAA standard, that’s problematic,” Gerhardt said.

It is not clear if the Honor Court looks into possible plagiarism when considering all cases of academic misconduct.

Members of the current Honor Court declined to comment.

According to Honor Court records released in February, 110 of the 187 total cases tried by the court in the 2009-10 academic year were charges of academic dishonesty. Of the 110 charges, 64 of them were for plagiarism.

UNC Libraries has created a new quiz to help incoming students learn about what constitutes plagiarism at the University. It can be found at

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