McGill student wins fight over anti-cheating website
A student at McGill University has won the right to have his assignments marked without first submitting them to an American, anti-plagiarism website.
Jesse Rosenfeld refused to submit three assignments for his second-year economics class to Turnitin.com, a website that compares submitted works to other student essays in its database, as well as to documents on the web and published research papers.
The site prepares an "originality report" on how the submitted work compares with other documents. It can also evaluate students' papers for spelling, grammar and structural errors.
McGill was using the website as part of a trial use of its services, which expired in December. Students submitted their papers to the website for a preliminary evaluation, after which their work was marked by instructors.
Rosenfeld, 19, said he refused to submit his work to the website because it's offensive to most students who are honest and work hard to create original material.
"What I object to most about the policy at McGill is that it treats students as though we are guilty until proven innocent," said Rosenfeld, in a media release from the Canadian Federation of Students.
Rosenfeld also objected to the California-based company profiting from its database of student work.
Rosenfeld initially received a zero on all three assignments. McGill agreed this week to mark Rosenfeld's papers, giving him marks ranging from B+ to C+.
The software behind Turnitin.com was designed by a graduate student at Berkeley University in California, but that school has refused to use it. It has been adopted, however, at several schools in the U.S. and at 29 universities in Canada.
The Canadian Federation of Students says this amounts to allowing technology to evaluate and grade student papers. The group says it's a reaction to ballooning classroom sizes and government funding cuts.
"The reality is that the high monitoring of students really isn't about catching cheaters, it is a substitute for hiring enough faculty members to take the time to read student work," said Ian Boyko, national chair of the student federation.