Dalhousie abandons anti-plagiarism software

Victory for student groups

A majority of university presidents in the U.S. (55 per cent of them) say that plagiarism has increased in the past 10 years. Of those, 89 per cent blame the Internet, says a new study by Pew.

Many universities have fought back by using software like Turnitin, which forces students to upload their papers to be scanned against a database of published works, before their professors grade them. If passages appear to have been copied, the professor is informed and may investigate.

But profs at Dalhousie University learned this week that they no longer have access to the software, in part because papers were being stored on U.S. servers against the school’s wishes, Dwight Fischer, the school’s Chief Information Officer told the Toronto Star.

“We’re moving quickly to replace that system with something else,” said Fischer. “We’re not bailing on our academic integrity strategy. Students should not think that this is a retreat on what we hold dear and valuable here.”

Dalhousie University’s Student Union has long opposed Turnitin, partly because it presumes students are guilty before proven innocent. Some students were concerned that their intellectual property was being stored in the U.S. or copied and stored against their will.

McGill University student Jesse Rosenfeld won the right to submit his paper in person, instead of through Turnitin, after the university punished him for refusing to use the software in 2003.

Ryerson University uses Turnitin, but students can opt out if they make alternate arrangements.

Seven students at the University of King’s College were found guilty of plagiarism in December after fifteen papers had been flagged by Turnitin.