On Campus

Penalties for dishonest profs

If professors demand intellectual honesty from students, we must demand it of ourselves

McGill professor Barbara Sherwin admits she made a mistake in taking credit for a paper that was largely ghost written by another author who was, in turn, contracted by a drug company.

Well, no shit, Sherwin.

When undergraduates take credit for other people’s work at my university, they face stiff penalties, beginning with zero on their papers and ending with suspension from the university. And that’s typically for teenagers who have just learned what cheating is. For an established scholar, there is no excuse. Sherwin says that the scholarship itself was sound, but she knows full well that that’s beside the point. It’s like a student saying, “Yes, I copied the answers from another student’s test, but I copied the right answers!”

Like judges, professors must maintain a high standard of obvious honesty. Without it, we cannot, in good conscience, teach students to work with those same values. And though others have done worse, it’s not like this is the first time.

McGill has promised appropriate action. Let’s hope it’s at least a year-long suspension. That’s what we do for students who should know better.

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