University News

U. explains academic code to int’l students

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 21, 2011

International students were responsible for a disproportionately high number of academic code violations brought before the Academic Code Committee last academic year, prompting the University to improve the support and information provided to international students this year.

The committee’s report, released April 14, concluded that international students “are disproportionately likely to appear before the committee and to be found to have violated the academic code.” The report showed that while non-American citizens make up less than 10 percent of the student body, they represent nearly 20 percent of the appearances before the committee last year.

Students in computer science courses account for the majority of academic code violations decided by the committee. The Department of Computer Science uses plagiarism detection software, which makes it easier for the department to identify instances of academic dishonesty. The two findings might be connected, said Kathleen McSharry, associate dean for writing and dean for issues of chemical dependency and a case administrator for the committee. “I don’t think they’re actually violating the code more,” she said, but international students may be “disproportionately represented” in computer science courses.

But with only 57 cases reviewed by the committee last year, McSharry said the statistics may not even show actual trends.

The University has made changes to help international students in recent months, including creating a full-time position for a coordinator of English as a Second Language writing support. The coordinator position is  currently held by Esther Boucher-Yip.

Boucher-Yip hosts office hours in the Writing Center for non-native English speakers and is leading a series of writing workshops throughout the semester catered specifically to these students. The third workshop is titled, “Using sources in your essay.”

 Students have mostly seen Boucher-Yip for general writing help so far, but she said she expects more focus on citations when students are assigned longer papers later in the semester.

The University revised International Orientation, which was mandatory for the first time this year, to include an information session on plagiarism.

International students are disproportionately represented in academic code violations because they are unaware of or do not understand American standards of academic honesty, McSharry said. “The burden is on the University to help these students understand what it means to be a student in an American system.”

“Western notions of ownership of ideas by the individual are something that students from East Asian cultures in particular need to learn about,” she said. “In some Asian cultures today, being a good student means basically reproducing what authorities have said about things without assuming to assert your own opinion about it.”

Once international students understand the University’s academic code, they are happy to comply with it, Boucher-Yip said.