An apology and an explanation

Last week, the UP staff experienced something unique to us, though not to the rest of the world: plagiarism. The student who wrote our last cover story, “Haitian Celebration,” grabbed entire paragraphs from two websites and claimed them as her own.

Unfortunately, we’re now in some prestigious company. Only last year, New York Times reporter Jayson Blair resigned after it was discovered that he fabricated or plagiarized all or part of at least 36 articles. The New York Times apologized profusely. Now we are, too.

Part of the problem is that many people don’t know what plagiarism is. “Sometimes the students are unaware, or only half-aware, that to quote from published sources without attribution is a form of cheating — just as bad as copying from another student’s exam,” FAU English Prof. Carol McGuirk told me when I asked her to give me some guidance on this awful situation.

English Professor Daniel Murtaugh added that many students don’t consider it plagiarism to cut and paste text from different websites. “What people forget is that such use of the Internet is very easy to trace. We spell out what plagiarism is and what its consequences are in our syllabi, but it seems that there are always some students who think that they can get away with it.”

Fortunately, the writer of the UP‘s story didn’t get away with it. And I’ve taken steps to ensure no one else will, either.

The writer has been suspended indefinitely, and I’ve established new rules that will help us prevent plagiarism in the future. It will also will be a key topic of discussion at the first UP staff meeting of every semester from now on.

I’ve notified and apologized to the two websites that were plagiarized, AllRefer.com and OnWar.com. Ralph Zuljan, administrator of OnWar.com, replied, “Copying large swaths of material from a source is a big no-no in universities, but I would like to emphasize that in my experience … I have noticed a great deal of scholarly plagiarism. Sometimes, it’s almost impossible to figure out who copied from whom.”

We’re going to try our best. If you have any questions about this incident or what I intend to do about it, feel free to email me at [email protected]

Vanessa FrostEditor-in-Chief