NYU Undergrads Accused of Plagiarism

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on July 18, 2011

A tell-all blog post by a New York University professor claims that more than 20 business students at the elite private university plagiarized portions of the work they submitted for one of his classes. Criticism by students in their evaluation of the professor resulted in a financial penalty for him, he says.

Panagiotis Ipeirotis, a computer science professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, discovered the plagiarism in his fall undergraduate class using Turnitin, a service that compares student writing against a huge database of published and unpublished sources. In all, 22 of the 108 students in the class admitted using their classmates’ answers, or unattributed internet sources such as journals, on assignments, he wrote. Most of the assignments included at least 20 percent plagiarized material, and in some cases far more. All received negative grades for the plagiarized assignments. Two of the students ultimately left the class.

One student emailed Ipeirotis a creative explanation involving a vacation, his best friend’s grandmother, and a huge miscommunication to clarify why his paper was 97 percent similar to a paper submitted for the same class in 2009. After learning that the paper had been processed by Turnitin, the student turned in a new assignment. The second paper was 57 percent copied from the 2009 assignment. After a three-hour discussion with Ipeirotis, the student did not return to class.

In a spreadsheet project—a modified version of one previously used in 2006—students turned in assignments that bore the names of their classmates, or the names of past Ph.D. students who prepared the solution key in 2006. As the result of that assignment, another repeat cheater did not return to class.

Ipeirotis was stunned at the extent of the cheating.

"I was surprised by the number," he said in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. "I was locating the occasional case in my prior years, but such a percentage was a big surprise."

After announcing his intention to report the cheating to the dean unless students turned themselves in, Ipeirotis said, class became contentious and awkward, and his teaching evaluations suffered. His typical evaluation in this class, 6.0 to 6.5 out of 7.0, fell to 5.3. In his blog post, Ipeirotis wrote that Associate Dean Susan Greenbaum and the department chair "'expressed their appreciation' for...chasing such cases." But his "yearly salary increase was the lowest ever, and significantly lower than inflation, as my 'teaching evaluations took a hit this year,'" he wrote.

In an interview, Greenbaum told Bloomberg Businessweek that she could not comment about Ipeirotis' evaluation or pay, or what happened to the students. But she noted that Stern freshmen are given exercises in avoiding plagiarism and reminded of their responsibilities throughout their time at the school. "I want to reinforce that we care very deeply about this issue," she says. "Holding students to this standard is hard work."

Ipeirotis wrote that the experience absolutely wasn't worth it.

"I doubt that I will be checking again for cheaters.," he wrote. "I am not a policeman fighting crime. My role is to educate and teach, not to enforce honest behavior. This is a university, not a kindergarten."

Next year, he said he would place more of an emphasis on using assignments that make it more difficult to cheat: original research and in-class presentations making use of public data, for example. He said he thought these types of assignments would focus his students' competitive energy constructively.

Stern's Code of Ethical Conduct prohibits "plagiarism, misrepresentation, and falsification of data." Punishment is on a case-by-case basis, but can include a note on the students' transcript that explicitly states that they cheated, which some employers and graduate schools treat as an automatic disqualification. But harsh punishment can be a mixed blessing. Ipeirotis said a fear of such sanctions means some professors might not fully enforce the policy.

Unless business schools change the structure of assignments or evaluations, Ipeirotis' experience won't be the last one.

"I think students respond to incentives," he said. "They feel if they can cheat and get away with it, and probability of getting caught is low, they'll do it."

--Kiah Lau Haslett

Reader Comments

Guybrush Threepwood

July 19, 2011 2:16 AM

Terrible that NYU has to kick ethics under the table.

Dalmar Richards

July 19, 2011 8:32 AM

At my age of 61 years and attending a University,I try to do my best as not to plagarise but will do a research on the topic I hope to write about. Plagarism is a felony and should be punishable by law.Why should any one gets credit for somebody else's hard work?

LOL@Ipeirotis

July 19, 2011 2:18 PM

It's pretty hilarious that Businessweek gave any validity to the Professor's statements, when Ipeirotis (an IT professor) used his own blog to complain about his job - that's probably a great idea on his part, maybe that's even why he actually got his pay cut. And then to even further discredit his credentials as an undergraduate professor, he says that it's University and Student's fault for answering assignments, that he has been using for years now, in the same way that they were in the past at a school that has a built in curve to essentially ensure that plagarism will occur if professor's don't change assignments. I guess that's what Stern is paying top dollar for, a professor that uses the same teaching methods for years and then complains that people are finding answers from previous semesters.A message to Stern - if you curve your classes to where only a certain percentage of students can get A's make sure your professors aren't making courses where cheating will give you an upper hand and subsequently push the grades of people who don't cheat lower (logic follows that everyone will start cheating, that's pretty elementary).

Louis Lavelle

July 19, 2011 2:41 PM

So let me get this straight: cheating is everybody's fault except for the people who actually cheated? Sorry, I'm just not buying that argument. The IRS uses the same old tax code year and year out, and when people get caught fudging the numbers they go to jail...nobody blames anyone other than the tax frauds. This is no different. It's time for people to take responsibility for their own misbehavior. When it comes right down to it, plagiarists always have a choice between doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing, and they choose the wrong thing.

Louis Lavelle
Associate Editor
Bloomberg Businessweek

LOL@Ipeirotis

July 19, 2011 2:57 PM

Actually that is completely false, as an associate editor from businessweek you should know the mass amount of white collar crime that exists in the states that in fact goes unpunished. Have you ever heard of tax services and professional accountants who fudge the numbers and get away with it? In fact many of your executives probably have offshore accounts to avoid upper tax brackets and withholdings within the states. Or let's take the case of GM who essentially pays no taxes relative to the amount of profit they make annually and actually are awarded for it because they are "creative" accountants. I get it - it's an idealistic belief to say that rules are rules, but we do not live in an idealistic world. Business students should not be treated to a different standard that everyday professionals are treated to in the US. Business students are filtered out by their GPA's for bulge bracket companies - anything below a 3.7 basically means you are not considered, do you blame students when the school is designed to be survival of the fittest (i.e. modeled after business in real life).

LOL@Ipeirotis

July 19, 2011 3:02 PM

Correction: GE* not GM

Louis Lavelle

July 19, 2011 3:09 PM

You're blaming rule breaking on the rules--that's crazy! Every example you described is an instance of people skating very close to the line, but not overstepping it. Laws have loopholes and loopholes will be exploited. What happened at NYU isn't the same thing. Those students took somebody else's work and called it their own. They stole someone else's intellectual property. They crossed the line. I may be alone here, but I don't care what kind of pressure they were under by the curve, or anything else. If I plagiarize in my job, I'd be marched out the door within the hour. And frankly, I like it that way.

Louis Lavelle
Associate Editor
Bloomberg Businessweek

LOL@Ipeirotis

July 19, 2011 3:42 PM

I am not trying to argue for arguments sake, I think between the two of us it's just a difference in outlook on who to blame for the "plagarism." Does rule breaking happen because of the rules themselves? Honestly I think that is a truth of life - poorly designed rules will get broken or as you choose to phrase - "loopholes will be found."

However, in regards to my first comment the purpose of my statements was to look at what the professor did from a different perspective. There are several reasons why his pay could have been cut, and in my honest opinion he deserved it. As an IT professor he should known that complaining about internal affairs, on a public blog, such as salary and operations within a private institution is extremely unprofessional and in many cases grounds for firing. When students take evaluations they are meant to be private and by revealing their results to the public (WITHOUT the consent of the University) gives insight into the Professor's professionalism and ability to uphold protocol. So it was comical to me that he is given credibility for claiming wrongdoing by his own students when he betrayed his own agreement with students and the University in regards to student evaluations.

Sure, plagarism "shouldn't" happen, but it does - at every single University - from NYU to Harvard to Penn it's a cold fact of college life. This reality is probably understood by every administrator and college educated individual in the country. For the Professor, he should also understand that writing on public forums that 22 students in his class plagarized and that his pay was lowered because of bad evaluation (which was never proven and a statement that we do not know to be based in fact) hurts the reputation of the institution that he is employed by - which can be illustrated by the fact that Bloomerg picked this story up. So where does the story go from here? I think it's pretty safe to say that his pay won't be raised after the University hears about this.

Elisa

July 19, 2011 3:53 PM

Unfortunately, NYU has a history with plagiarism, and not only by undergrads. Stolen Words by Thomas Mallon has a chapter on an individual whose NYU Ph.D. dissertation was filled with plagiarisms (he was fired from the university where he obtained his first academic position, but NYU never opened an investigation into how he was allowed to get a Ph.D.). More recently, an NYU professor who was the chairman of the Jewish Studies department suddenly left the university for an administrative job elsewhere after being accused of plagiarism in an ongoing sensational case (also never investigated at NYU). If these are the examples that students look up to, how can they be expected to understand that plagiarism is more than a picadillo?

LOL@Ipeirotis

July 19, 2011 4:04 PM

And an even more hilarious development: The post has already been deleted on the Professor's Blog.

Louis Lavelle

July 19, 2011 4:10 PM

Fair enough. I'll point out, though, that the school had every opportunity to dispute the professor's account and didn't. I'll also point out that the professor was commenting on his own pay--he wasn't disclosing Coke's secret formula, he was talking about his own pay, and last I checked we still have a right to free speech in this country. As for the student evaluations, he didn't disclose any student's individual evaluation by name. He disclosed his aggregate score for the class, which was supplied by the school as the rationale for his raise. I'm not sure any of that amounts to the kind of betrayal you described, but I think reasonable people can disagree on that.

Louis Lavelle
Associate Editor
Bloomberg Businessweek

Ray @ Turnitin

July 19, 2011 7:11 PM

Clearly plagiarism is a wide-spread problem, but we should be applauding instructors and administrators that do something about it, not discouraging it. By setting an example and showing their students, faculty, alumni and other stakeholders that the school takes academic integrity and ethics seriously, protects the reputation of the institution and the value of the degree.

Ray

July 19, 2011 7:30 PM

Original post was taken down. It was syndicated (or stolen) here:
http://www.bspcn.com/2011/07/17/why-i-will-never-pursue-cheating-again/

Cash is King

July 19, 2011 8:08 PM

Blame it on the intense Stern Curve.

alum

July 19, 2011 8:54 PM

As a recent alum of the school, I can relate with the situation. Yes, Stern (as with any schools, but more so) has enormous pressure to perform. And, the fact that our infamous "Stern curve" makes competition extremely fierce, I can understand the thought process of the students that cheated. However, that is not to say their actions should be condoned.

As for the Professor, thank GOD that I never had him. If he doesn't have enough common sense not to post topics of this nature in his blog, he doesn't deserve to teach in our school. (Especially, he is a FRIGGIN IT professor where you are taught that everything on the internet is permanent, and everyone should be careful of what they post.)

alum

July 19, 2011 8:56 PM

Oh yea and btw... I didn't have a 3.7 and got into a bulge bracket firm. So, don't despair LOL@Ipeirotis.

Anonymous

July 19, 2011 11:17 PM

As a Stern student myself, I want to make a few things clear.

1. The title of this article is terribly overstated -- I think Orwell would have a fit over how outrageously excessive these words are. Twenty students were caught cheating. Considering NYU has an undergrad class of nearly 15,000 students (Stern alone has about 3,000) I am insulted by the close-minded scale the title may symbolize.

2. The fact of the matter is, Stern is based on a harsh curve. This does not justify plagiarism -- but, as with any other school in this nation, it happens. Under the competitive umbrella, it can be very stressful on a students' life, especially at such a young age. As a student in the program, I speak for many when I say that most Stern students look down upon cheating. Is it fair that you are working your mind off to try to place yourself in the top 30% of the class while some students take the shortcut and obtain those spots? No. For that reason, most students actually have the incentive to report and uphold the honor code for the sheer fact that there is a negative social stigma attached to cheating.

3. I believe sincerely that good journalism requires hard facts. Seeing as this professor hasn't posted some sort of communication that indicated his performance was entirely tied with his pursuit of plagiarism, I don't believe it for a second. The honest truth is that many professors at NYU are brilliant but suck at their jobs. Over the course of the last year, I had two professors who hardly spoke a lick of English. To say that it might not be possible that a first year, tenured professor drop ~11% (7 points out of 6.3) in his standard evaluation is ridiculous. It's like publishing an innovative product that's been field tested twice. He stated that his teaching style changed this year due to his promotion.

4. I really think that this professor also underestimates the international student body at Stern. Stern is largely an Asian community - which is totally OK - except that many have very little exposure to the US and common scholastic practices. I had to help instruct my Chinese roommate this past year how to construct and implement a bibliography as he had never done one before. Yes, some students do copy and paste, yes it is a top university, but to say that ALL students know better is ignorant.

Sternie

July 20, 2011 1:53 AM

LOL@Ipeirotis, you could not be more logical and correct. To me, this is more of a smear campaign against a top undergraduate business institution. Try to show me a top school in the US with either A. no grade inflation or B. no cheating, and you will hard pressed sir. Also, LOL@Ipeirotis, great call. If you are foolish and lazy enough to not even update your assignments, the fault is on you good sir. Sternies are just trying to stay ahead of that curve. More power to them if they can find an easier way to do that.

Louis Lavelle

July 20, 2011 8:58 AM

Thanks to everybody for writing. Let me try to address some of these concerns.
@Sternie: Yes, you’d be hard-pressed to find a top school with no cheating, but you‘d be hard-pressed to find a state (or city, or neighborhood) without robberies; should we allow robberies? Blaming the cheating on the fact that the professor used an old assignment is like blaming speeding on a speed limit that never changes. Blaming it on the curve is equally ridiculous. There’s a way to beat the curve without cheating. It’s called studying.
@Anonymous: Terribly overstated? Outrageously excessive? The professor accused his own students of plagiarism in a blog post. We wrote “NYU Undergrads Accused of Plagiarism”—how is that anything other than a recitation of the facts? Is it the plural “undergrads” that you object to—are you suggesting it implies that ALL NYU undergrads were accused? Well, it doesn’t. It just means more than one. I agree, good journalism requires hard facts, and in an ideal world the professor would have been able to supply an email from NYU administration stating that his raise was based on a drop in his student evaluation score. But absent a smoking gun we did the only thing we could, and the only thing required by the tenets of good journalism: we attempted to get the school’s side of the story.
@alum: professors don’t give up their first amendment rights when they take a job at a school (or anywhere else for that matter). In fact, this is one of the purposes of tenure, to give professors free rein to express controversial or unpopular views without fear of losing their jobs. I’m not sure what you mean by “topics of this nature.” After all, he didn’t violate anyone’s privacy—he spoke of his course evaluations in aggregate, and he spoke about his own pay. Are professors’ free to say anything they want as long as it casts their school in a positive light? I’m not sure if you have your own blog, but would you want posts you wrote about your experiences at NYU vetted by the school prior to publication?
If that’s the kind of world we lived in, none of you would be allowed to express your opinion in these comments, which would be a real shame. While I disagree with most of them, I wholeheartedly support your right to express them. In my view, plagiarism is plagiarism. It’s the fault of the person who does it, not the curve, not the professor who catches it, not the media that reports it. It’s not excused by old assignments, or fierce competition, or the fact that “everybody does it.” It’s just not.
Louis Lavelle
Associate Editor
Bloomberg Businessweek

Anonymous

July 20, 2011 9:43 AM

"@Anonymous: Terribly overstated? Outrageously excessive? The professor accused his own students of plagiarism in a blog post. We wrote “NYU Undergrads Accused of Plagiarism”—how is that anything other than a recitation of the facts? Is it the plural “undergrads” that you object to—are you suggesting it implies that ALL NYU undergrads were accused? Well, it doesn’t. It just means more than one. I agree, good journalism requires hard facts, and in an ideal world the professor would have been able to supply an email from NYU administration stating that his raise was based on a drop in his student evaluation score. But absent a smoking gun we did the only thing we could, and the only thing required by the tenets of good journalism: we attempted to get the school’s side of the story."

In response...

1. Yes, it is excessive and misleading. The "fact" is that ONE professor accused TWENTY-TWO students of plagiarising at an institution with over 10,000 students and hundreds, if not thousands, of faculty members. The article would have been much more appropriately titled "NYU professor accuses twenty-two students of plagiarism". Specificity removes the risk of ambiguity and a diverse range of impressions.

2. You are not getting the school's side of the story. You are getting an angry IT professor's blog on a lousy raise. A small one-line disclaimer stating "The professor has yet provided conclusive evidence indicating his raise is correlated entirely with his evaluation." Furthermore, again, it is impossible to determine whether or not his evaluations were even entirely tied down to this. I can tell you right now that any teacher that freely allows cheating to go on at a Stern course while the students are aware will not go far in evaluations. We expect professors at Stern to provide us with a top-tier education, to challenge us, and to foster honest behavior so that every student has a fair chance.

The fact of the matter is there are a LOT of variables in this article that aren't being considered and it is written with a very biased tone in favor of the teacher's emotional interpretation of his raise. If he has the information to prove he is correct, he should be talking to his lawyer.

I would also like to comment on TurnItIn and some of the things this professor has said. He showed an image that displayed the flagged work of users. TurnItIn will flag work as "copied" even if it is properly quoted. It takes no account of the proper use of quotations at all. Obviously the people with 50% or more of their work copied, it's likely that their work is plagiarized. However, I have written research papers where 20-25% of my work was considered "copied" -- a false positive when the citations are taken into account.

Also... since when is copying a layout on Excel considered plagiarism? If I were to do a Discounted Cash Flow, I would prefer finding an exemplary laylout that organizes the data online and simply do my own work from there.

NYU STudent

July 20, 2011 10:02 AM

I am an NYU student and I will tell you this. Kids go online and find professor stats on RateMyProfessor. Kids choose easier teacher/classes. Kids cheat because their "lives depend on it". The school is almost $60,000 tuition, if you dont do well, your parents will definitely let you hear it. Its not about cheating, its about doing well. I will do anything to get an A....anything. I do not blame the professor but him blogging is very unprofessional. Also, youre asking for trouble when you use the same questions every year. Youre getting paid to teach every year, not just teach one year and "copy and paste". The problem is because people think they need 4.0 to get jobs, though you do not. Cheating will always be part of the system ESPECIALLY when they have the STERN CURVE...meaning if I get an A, i can still get a B.

The Speeding argument are complete BS because it is not the same thing. Speeding varies wherever you go, so why not let cheating vary on grade inflation?


IF YOURE NOT CHEATING...YOURE NOT TRYING!

:)

Louis Lavelle

July 20, 2011 10:06 AM

Not every fact needs to go into a headline. That's what the story is for. Besides, would anyone in their right mind (present company excepted) actually believe that EVERY NYU student was simultaneously accused of plagiarism? Besides, you only had to read the very first 16 words of the blog post to get to "more than 20"--a reader's attention span would have to be spectacularly short not to get that far. Did the students go to NYU? Yes. Was there more than one? Yes. Were they accused of plagiarism. Yes. Case closed. Not getting the school's side of the story? We called the school! They declined to comment on the raise, etc., and we can't force them to. I don't know where you think this alleged "biased tone" in the story resides, but I'm going to suggest something that may not have occurred to you: it's all in your imagination. The story is a straight up news story written to the exact same standards as every other article on the BW web site, and in fact a much higher standard than much of what passes for journalism on the web.I appreciate that you want to find a culprit here that isn't the students themselves. But there isn't one, and it certainly isn't BW.
Louis Lavelle
Associate Editor
Bloomberg Businessweek

AnEnglishTeacher

July 20, 2011 1:43 PM

@NYU Student
It's students like you who make the system get steadily worse and worse. The attitude of "Just give in a little here and there" which will eventually make the entire education system collapse because there is no longer any integrity or pride left in actual learning.

Cheating is cheating. You cannot turn it into anything else. You cannot blame anyone else for your ultimate choice to cheat. Yes, the professor needs to alter his curriculum in order to maintain a high level of true scholarship, but ultimately it is still your choice to choose to cheat.

By the way, employers will not see plagiarism or cheating in the workplace as "trying." They will see it as dishonesty and will fire you, sometimes on the spot.

Clint

July 20, 2011 8:40 PM

The posts here from self-identified NYU students and Alum, in an attempt to defend the school are more damaging to the schools reputation than the contents of the article.

Do you guys hear yourselves? "If you're not cheating, you're not trying," "The prof deserved it," sheesh!

I know we're in an fiercely competitive environment, I'm in your demographic, I get it.

If you're really going to play the we-do-what-we-do-to-survive card, realize that first of all the stakes aren't that high, (C's get degrees, and yes they get employment as well) and secondly accept the consequences (or that in principle there will be consequences) with a bit more humility, and quit destroying your Alma maters brand.

Anonymous

July 20, 2011 9:11 PM

Not trying to justify that cheating is right, but like some have said Ipeirotis should have known that giving out the same assignments semester after semester, year after year was going to cause problems. I mean, how many ways can you think of to define WiMAX? I'm sure you can't think of 40 different definitions.

Sternie #2

July 21, 2011 11:05 AM

First off, I just want to say that I agree with the point of this article. Cheating is bad and blatant cheating such as the examples given in the article should be punished. However, there are a few caveats to this particular case...

I took this class (not with this prof) a couple years ago and had the same assignment, and I think there are some misunderstandings that should be cleared up (at least, from my experiences and through talking to students that were actually accused of cheating).

1) I don't think most of these cases are actually a case of plagiarism - a lot of it is students WILLINGLY handing down their assignments to help out their friends. Since these students already took the class, it does not directly affect their grades. Just a small misunderstanding that I think should be cleared up

2) Although the examples you gave are particularly egregious, there ARE some ambiguous cases that I know Ipeirotis handled exceptionally unfairly. This is understandable given the audacity with which some students cheated, but in my opinion extremely unfair to the ambiguous cases. Here is the story...

One student I personally talked to had her assignment flagged by turnitin for being similar to a classmate’s assignment. The actual reason for this is that they were working together on the assignment (is collaboration frowned upon too?) and I believe she was a bit too trusting and sent over a copy of her ORIGINAL (no plagiarism) assignment to him to check answers and the like. This guy then proceeded to copy a few sentences (literally a few sentences, not 97% of the paper) here and there, which set off turnitin. When she approached Ipeirotis with this case, Ipeirotis was extremely unyielding, most likely disillusioned by the other cases. This student went on and did extremely well on the other assignments and final, yet was dinged with a C+ (maybe C) b/c of "cheating". This would bring a respectable 3.70 going into recruiting to a 3.63 for essentially being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I mention these points because if this story is going to be covered, I want all sides to be represented. Currently all we have are the views of a professor, who based on my experiences is extremely smart and qualified but did not handle this situation in the most professional manner (read: he's kind of a jerk).

John

July 21, 2011 1:31 PM

@Ray@Turnitin

"we should be applauding instructors and administrators that do something about it... By setting an example and showing their students, faculty, alumni and other stakeholders that the school takes academic integrity and ethics seriously, protects the reputation of the institution and the value of the degree."

Did NYU "take ethics seriously" or did it rather "protect the reputation of the institution" by covering up the plagiarism of their former faculty member Lawrence Schiffman? (See comment by Elisa above.)

I've looked into this and it seems that Schiffman instructed his students in his syllabus that “papers must be fully footnoted… Students must learn the difference between the documented use of the work of others, and… plagiarism. Plagiarism will not be tolerated under any circumstances.” See this site:

http://larryschiffman.wordpress.com/2008/08/03/charges-of-impropriety-surface-against-new-york-university-professor-lawrence-schiffman/

But when questioned about the allegations against himself in court, he said: "I don’t believe this is an accusation of plagiarism. It’s an accusation of too few footnotes to a guy." See this other site:

http://bit.ly/qwYNoV

This has now led to a whole scandal online:

http://open.salon.com/blog/yeshiva_duke/2011/01/17/accused_of_plagiarism_prof_lawrence_schiffman_leaves_nyu

astudent

July 23, 2011 1:29 PM

from what I've read here, theres a lot of defensivness in response to the article and the potential implications the scandal can have on the universitie reputation (that is, as a bearer of high standards , no plagirism policy)

Let me just state, any reasonable person would not take away from this event ( or the title of the article) the view that NYU's student body is particularly and especially oriented towards plagirism, - but rather, that this represents a general trend amongst all univeristiy students of relaxed attitudes torwards the issue of cheating.

With this said, I find the justfications here for cheating unecessary, but most importantly, discouraging and just flat out wrong.

Maverick

July 23, 2011 10:28 PM

Some of the comments by current and former NYU students are disturbing and with regards to a grading curve, your not the only students in the world that have to deal with a grade curve.

MorganGehrisCulture

July 25, 2011 9:13 AM

Louis, thank you for generating this discussion, and even more for participating in it.

The issue at hand brings up several other important issues regarding student feedback.

Some professors tailor their courses to enter "up-notes" at periods in which evaluations by students will occur; this practice alters evaluations in an inequitable manner. Student evaluations of faculty members, particularly those evaluations that include only number systems, are flawed and can often simply indicate "did the students have fun in class" vs. "did the students learn anything". Evaluations that include written responses, however, are generally both more helpful and more accurate- though obviously not as quantifiable and therefore not as desirable for university officials.

On a note related somewhat to the article but not necessarily to my previous point, the current tenure system allows unethical behavior on the part of many faculty members. For instance, rather than spending appropriate preparation time, many professors- like Ipeirotis- re-use assignments for years (or even decades). These professors are not called to account for lack of professional development or lack of teaching ability without student surveys. The professors are protected from almost all adverse action. True- we don't know why the professor's raise was low (and, true- he should be grateful to have a job as secure as the one he has, and to have received a raise at all in the current economy; we also don't know whether the university cut ALL raises recently or some other overarching explanation since the school won't comment), but the alarming issue is the percentage of students who admitted to cheating.

My intent is not to lend credibility or legitimacy to cheaters. This culture of cheating and illegitimate appropriation has flooded the business world with our generation and continues to be nurtured by the very business world students long to be a part of. My mother, an accountant, has been asked to "cook the books" at every single firm she's been employed by in the last 20 years. Her employers have children who have graduated college, in general not by merit (based on my personal interactions with them and my own admittedly unprofessional intelligence diagnostics), but by finances.

Furthermore, Sternie #2, "willing plagiarism" is still plagiarism. The students turning in the assignments know this. When they realize that some students are actually completing the assignment, but the turners-in are not, the turners-in must know these actions are dishonest. If they legitimately have permission to use these documents, they should QUOTE them like any other responsible writer and use them as source material, not claim the work as their own. Stealing candy from a willing baby is still stealing.

Finally, NYU students and alum: shame on you. You will do anything to get an A: anything, that is, except the actual hard work college requires. Every one of your posts is full of grammatical errors and misspellings. Are you defending the position of cheating because you're unable to hold your own in a classroom with real talent, or are you defending it because you legitimately think that taking someone else's property is ok? You didn't think that when you were in kindergarten; you bleated, "That's not FAIR!" to your mother when someone stole your My Little Pony, but when stealing serves your purposes you find it acceptable.

See an interesting discussion on LinkedIn from professors regarding mixed opinions on the usefulness of their evaluations by students:
http://www.linkedin.com/groupItem?view=&gid=1844698&type=member&item=61822591&qid=bb132645-e3e3-4814-af33-9fca66b2e6a1&trk=group_most_popular-0-b-ttl&goback=.gmp_1844698

shamed Sternie

July 28, 2011 12:58 AM

Though this article deals directly with Undergrads and I recently graduated B school @ Stern, the comments by some alumni and current students makes me sick. I busted my butt for 2 years, took on six figure debt and proudly graduated and am proud to have NYU brand associated with me for life, but to see this type of reasoning etc makes me sick. I was a teaching Fellow for an undergrad class on Management Communications which required a lot of writing examples. I will say I did not see many cases of "cheating", I think 3 or 4 papers over the semester and 2 of them were actually work sited but Turn It in did not account for this. Yes, it's okay to be competitive But I don't want to hear any crap about the Stern Curve and getting a job b.s. It's not the end of the world to get a B, your lives and careers are just starting, suck it up, study hard and keep trying/

Ed

July 28, 2011 7:24 AM

This is all about integrity and honor. Something very few kids know anything about. There is no respect because of political correctness. Every one of these students should have been suspended from school on the first, and thrown out on the second.
Ask any teacher at any level, and I bet every one has a story of a parent harrassing them about a poor grade of their child, when actually parents should be asking the teacher what can they do to help and succeed.
As a business owner, I would rather hire a grad with a 2.8-3.2 GPA who has worked their way threw school, than some snot who graduates with a 3.5+ and doesn't have a stitch of integrity.

EducationMaven

July 30, 2011 11:09 PM

Just got back from vacation and saw this. As background for my remarks: I teach at a community college.

1. I would not have blogged about it, but it's a pretty open secret that cheating exists in virtually every classroom in virtually every school -- elementary through college up to the graduate level. I personally don't even regard it as a secret. (Wasn't Ghadaffi's son accused of plagiarizing his thesis?) I have not read the professor's post, but it is not necessarily unprofessional to discuss it. We all talk about it and many of us acknowledge it in discussions with outside people. As mentioned, it is not a secret as far as I'm concerned. From what I understand, no privacy issues were violated.

2. Although I try not to repeat assignments, it is difficult to continually come up with new ones all the time. Therefore, I do NOT necessarily blame the professor involved for a repeat assignment. A repeat assignment is also no excuse for copying.

3. It is laughable to talk of "different standards" for business and students -- the standards are the same.

4. As several previous comments have pointed out, it is perfectly possible to get great jobs with "less than a 3.7". I didn't even make 3.4 undergraduate because I experimented around with a lot of different courses (three different majors at one time or another). I still got a great job after college and admission to graduate school. Sometimes students are not realistic about their opportunities and think too much rides on grades. Yes, they mean something -- but not everything. Just as college means something, but not everything.

5. I personally disagree with curves, period. However, curves are no excuse for cheating, period.

6. ALL students know that cheating is inappropriate -- and, if they say they don't, they're either lying or deluding themselves.

7. "If you're not cheating, you're not trying"??????!!!!! Please -- IF YOU'RE CHEATING, YOU'RE NOT TRYING! In general, in my experience, the ones who cheat are those who are marginal and not trying hard enough for some reason -- possibly they are overwhelmed by a too-heavy schedule or work/home issues.

8. As another poster pointed out, students "willingly handing down their assignments" IS cheating. See my further comments in #9.

9. The case cited by a poster regarding a student who "collaborated" with another one is NOT ambiguous! Unless collaboration is EXPLICITLY allowed, then, yes, it is "frowned upon". This includes "handing down" a copy of an assignment. If a student has any questions about what is allowed or not allowed, they should ask their professor. As I tell my students at the beginning of every semester, A PROFESSOR IS NOT A DETECTIVE -- I cannot undertake to determine who "lost" an assignment, who "found" it, etc. As per the comments from those trying to justify their (and others') actions, some people will say and do anything in order to achieve a grade they like. A professor cannot undertake to determine whether or not a student is telling the truth without hard, solid evidence -- not a person's statement justifying their actions.

turnitin.com

August 6, 2011 5:03 PM

I am a high school student but I feel the need to add something here. Turnitin.com is a great database that my high school uses but the numbers are always going to be high. If there is a right answer, there are only so many ways to say it and there is probably going to be a general point of view that most people agree with. This means that people are using similar sources or at least stating things in a similar manner. Turnitin.com considers this plagiarism. It is just something to consider. I see cheating everyday at my very competitive high school and you also see people refuse to cheat. If you do constantly plagiarize it will come back to get you even after school.

Alum

August 10, 2011 7:14 PM

Of course cheating is wrong... of course plagiarism is wrong... everyone knows and all the sternies that deny it are fools...

HOWEVER... a key point that no one is talking about is the fact that BW decided to write a post about 20 students cheating on their HW and a professor talking about it in his blog? Please explain to me that. As you have stated yourself, every school has plagiarism problem. So why Stern in particular?

BW's Louis Lavelle

August 11, 2011 8:10 AM

Why NYU? Because we know about NYU, and we don't know about all the other cheating that everyone seems to "know" is going on. Knowing and suspecting are two different things.

Any cheating episode qualifies as news. But the fact that the professor who caught the cheating wrote about it in his blog, where he basically threw up his hands and declared policing cheaters wasn't worth the effort made this case even more so.

For the record, this isn't the only cheating episode Bloomberg Businessweek has written about. We wrote about the Duke cheating scandal in 2007 and the GMAT cheating scandal a year later. I'm sure there were others but those are the two that I remember.

I also question the logic of this question. I'm not equating cheating with murder, simply making a point: should we stop writing about murders because not all murderers get caught? Cheaters, or anyone else who breaks the rules, have no right to expect a free pass from the media--they should expect to receive the same kind of news coverage that any other story gets. And frankly, the NYU cheaters got off easy--two blog posts (from BW) neither of which identified the cheaters by name. That's as close to a free pass as you can get.

Louis Lavelle
Associate Editor
Bloomberg Businessweek

Alum

August 12, 2011 4:51 PM

You are a joke, Louise.

"I'm not equating cheating with murder, simply making a point: should we stop writing about murders because not all murderers get caught? Cheaters, or anyone else who breaks the rules, have no right to expect a free pass from the media--they should expect to receive the same kind of news coverage that any other story gets. And frankly, the NYU cheaters got off easy--two blog posts (from BW) neither of which identified the cheaters by name. That's as close to a free pass as you can get."

I guess this is the sad reality that BW is in if its editor thinks that this story was actually news worthy. Also murder to cheating? I laugh at your comparison.

Also,

"Why NYU? Because we know about NYU, and we don't know about all the other cheating that everyone seems to "know" is going on. Knowing and suspecting are two different things."

Do yo have proof of this incident in any other shape or form other than that professor's blog? So, how do you "know" that this is going on in NYU? Aren't you also "suspecting"? Did you try to interview the Professor who wrote the blog post? And, did he confirm the incident? (I believe he actually took down his post.) If you consider a blog post newsworthy, what else isn't? Has BW fallen to the level of trying to fabricate news?

BW's Louis Lavelle

August 12, 2011 5:49 PM

You really don't understand "making a point" do you? You read "I'm not equating cheating with murder" and proceeded to criticize me for equating cheating with murder. Well done.

Do we "know" cheating happened in this case? We know what the professor said happened because we spoke to him before he pulled his blog post down. It's up to you to decide if you believe what he has to say. This, by the way, is exactly how it works in every other news story since the beginning of time. We're not cops. We don't have subpoena power. We're not a court of law. We're not final arbiters of truth. Anyone who ever read a newspaper would know this.

And yes, a blog post is (or can be) news--it's the content that matters, not the fact that it appears in a blog, or a book, or a speech. What, exactly, makes you think otherwise? And what makes you think this isn't news? The nearly two dozen people who felt compelled to comment on the blog post? The dozen or so other media outlets that picked it up? The tens of thousands of people who read it?

If this doesn't qualify as news, I'm not sure what does.

Louis Lavelle
Associate Editor
Bloomberg Businessweek

Alum

August 12, 2011 7:48 PM

"And yes, a blog post is (or can be) news--it's the content that matters, not the fact that it appears in a blog, or a book, or a speech."

Then. the question is, does a blog post about student cheating newsworthy. Are you going to write about every professor that writes about their students cheating? Why don't you start following people on Twitter then? Or their Faceook?

I am trying to make a point as to WHY BW CARES ABOUT THIS ISSUE??

BW's Louis Lavelle

August 15, 2011 11:00 AM

Dishonesty is always news. When a politician lies it's news. When a lobbyist fails to disclose gifts made to an elected official it's news. And when students engage in academic dishonesty such as plagiarism or cheating, it's news. You keep asking why it's news, so let me ask you: why wouldn't it be news? If people have a demonstrated interest in the topic, why wouldn't we write about?

And yes, we are going to write about every professor who writes about their students cheating (assuming we learn about it). In fact, we did--while this debate between you and I was going on. It involved Duke: http://www.businessweek.com/bschools/blogs/mba_admissions/archives/2011/08/dukes_cheating_problem.html

Everybody seems to think cheating is happening all over the place. Maybe that's why you believe it's not news--because it's not "new." Maybe if honor code violations were aired in an open forum, and student newspapers routinely published the names of students found guilty of those transgressions, and it ended up on their transcripts, maybe then there would be less cheating, and students can go ahead and earn their degrees the old-fashioned way...by working for them.

Louis Lavelle
Associate Editor
Bloomberg Businessweek

The Other 99% of Stern

August 19, 2011 10:37 AM

@maverick: It's "you're" not "your"1. That's why we go to Stern.


1. "How to Use You're and Your - WikiHow." WikiHow - The How-to Manual That You Can Edit. WikiHow, 17 Aug. 2011. Web. 19 Aug. 2011. .

Softwear

August 24, 2011 2:21 PM

Louis, I wouldn't bother to continue responding to these people. It's becoming clear that the reason they advocate cheating is because they are incapable of surviving any other way.

If someone gets away with cheating, it does not make cheating okay.

If someone gives you their assignment to copy, it does not make copying it okay.

When you "grow up" and enter the real world you will realize, one day or another, that there are consequences to actions. If you cheat on your spouse, your spouse will get mad. You cannot go on to blame your spouse. If you cheat at work, your boss will get mad. You can't go on to blame your boss. That's all.

Softwear

August 24, 2011 2:25 PM

Secondly, this is a compelling story which many people have found interesting and engaging. Yes, it's news.

Softwear

August 24, 2011 2:26 PM

Lastly, pointing out people's typographical errors is in extremely poor taste. Is that why you go to Stern?

Softwear

August 24, 2011 2:51 PM

Think of it this way. If your car was stolen, and you called the police, but the responding officer said, "sorry, we won't be pursuing this because SOME car thieves don't get caught" would you think that acceptable?

Cheating is stealing intellectual property.

Intellectual property is property in the same sense that your car is property.

Also, if you are misguided enough to think that your professors are not people with lives, spouses, opinions and yes - gasp! - blogs, you are wrong. Professors have blogs, they have fbook pages, they have opinions. They are fully within their rights to discuss those opinions (even regarding their workplace) online, as long as no names are mentioned.

I am 30. I graduated from university. I work at a university. At this university, we send suspected cases of plagiarism to the Dean. Because plagiarism, copying, cheating, and unlawful borrowing are wrong. And if you do it in the "real world" you can get fired or sued.

BW's Louis Lavelle

August 24, 2011 3:52 PM

Well said Softwear. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Louis Lavelle
Associate Editor
Bloomberg Businessweek

Undergrad Chemistry Student

September 13, 2011 2:28 AM

I don't understand why many readers feel the need to give Mr. Lavelle a hard time for this story. If you read his Bio, it clearly states that his job is publishing stories about business schools. It seems pretty clear that this falls under that category.

This article is not ground-breaking, but neither is an article about a heroic fireman, etc. It still qualifies as journalism. It is a current events article and it reads like one. Nowhere in the article does it attempt to pass off conjecture as fact or make blanket statements about NYU. I think that you 'media police' may find your time better spent at Faux (Fox) News. All opinions were either clearly Ipeirotis' or another source's. If all of you care so much for hard facts, why did you major in business anyway? The only thing that strikes me as a possible flaw was the phrase "Most of the assignments included at least 20 percent plagiarized material..." It is unclear whether the papers referenced were most of the plagiarized papers, or simply most of the total. Additionally, anyone who is familiar with Turnitin.com knows that 20% "plagiarism" is not necessarily indicative of actual plagiarism. Of course, it varies with the type of assignment, but 20% on a research paper is normal, as Turnitin.com doesn't take into account citations or disregard the short coincidental phrases that are bound to be recur when an entire class is assigned a common topic.

Ipeirotis sounds like a complainer, but he can't be faulted for not changing assignments. He never made anyone cheat and he shouldn't have to bend over backwards to make cheating impossible. That said, it really is his role to catch cheaters. Regardless of one's opinion on cheating, a grade system that curves the class strikes me as unfair and as not being in the university's, or the student's, best interest. When he says that he no longer intends to "police" cheating, he sounds rather like a sore loser.

@The Other 99% of Sterns: I got a kick out of your citation.

@EducationMaven: I agree with your post in it's entirety.

AreTherePeopleLikeThis?

September 26, 2011 10:00 AM

It seems it's been quite some time since the last comment but I can't help myself. I have to add this.

@The Other 99% of Stern

You are a complete idiot good sir.

You are everything that is wrong with this world. Not plagiarism, YOU!

TheBigPicture

September 27, 2011 10:02 AM

The comments here sympathizing with the cheating undergrads make me shake my head in disgust. I'd hoped you were all internet trolls but I began to realize you were actually kinda serious. If everyone in every class set their jaws and worked their tails off to give their professors the best, most original work possible, they would learn more from their efforts than anyone ever would while plagiarizing. The professor's job, as he summed up in the article, was to teach. Cheating makes his effort to teach completely ineffective. Therefore, he should absolutely be concerned with those who would undo the very purpose of his job.

What's more- if you, as a cheater, compete for that curved A with the other upstanding students, even if you somehow succeed you're only shooting yourself in the foot. Plagiarizing doesn't get you anywhere in real life (how can someone cite an NYU professor's folly as evidence in favor of student plagiarism when we all see the effects of it- he ended up abandoning his position, one he had to work hard to get I'd wager), and you should have to live with the burden of understanding that the honest students competing neck and neck with your dishonesty are worth the careers they'll obtain. They're proving every second, to their peers and more importantly themselves, that they deserve to be trusted with responsibility, and that they'll work to do their jobs right, time after time. Plagiarizers only prove that they're sufficient at deception.

Anyone arguing that the Stern curve fosters cheating is nothing short of an enabler, completely missing the point of the curve itself. The curve is clearly to foster competitiveness, and while my personal philosophy on universities is that they should do their utmost to supply EVERY student with the knowledge and experience needed to perform in a chosen career(as that is what those students are paying huge sums of money for), there obviously aren't jobs for EVERY graduate any longer (I'm not certain there ever were). If anything, the curve serves as a feedback loop to the students as to how well they can compete in an intellectual environment much like the one they'll compete in for careers. In the long run, those who cheat for the sake of their grades in this curving system not only lose the value of that feedback, but following their graduation, stand to water down the workforce, and perhaps (if their role happens to be professional such as a doctor, scientist, lawyer, etc.) contribute to the populous' mistrust in expertise and authority in the event that their career work is found to be fraudulent. If I were to extrapolate on the malignant effects of deception and general lack of work ethic in any one of the professional fields on the country, and possibly humankind, I'd be here forever. It would be wise to keep in mind, as you make choices for yourself, that butterfly wings can actually cause tsunamis in this case. There are consequences none can foresee for choosing the easy way out, so making excuses for it is nothing short of despicable.

TheBigPicture

September 27, 2011 10:16 AM

@Alum: Why do you care that BW cares? Why ask (or in your case caps lock scream) why? What is in this post that directly affects your reputation, that you'd choose to be defensive? What's posted is posted, to be spiteful and insult the journalist and editor for the post simply because you happen to be from the school where the event occurred is nothing short of childish, and it helps to discredit your opinions. So...grats on that.

NYU undergrad

September 30, 2011 9:40 PM

I'm an NYU undergrad, embarrassed and disgusted by the posts made by fellow NYU students. It doesn't matter whether you're from Stern, CAS, Steinhardt, Courant, Gallatin, Tisch, whatever. It doesn't matter whether you are a professor, undergrad, or grad student. It doesn't matter whether you're from Harvard or a community college––neither should it matter whether you're paying $60,000, $2,000, or nothing at all. I say this in relation to the context of this article and its comments. The bottom line is, plagiarism is plagiarism. I think you guys are missing the point here––the article is calling out the act of plagiarism, however misleading you think it to be.

Judging from this article, I can say that I probably wouldn't want to have a professor like that. I can make all sorts of judgments on him, but why would I do that here? That belongs on RateMyProfessor. Yes, everyone in this country is entitled to free speech, but slamming this article in defense of your institution, when its focus is on calling out the act of plagiarism, just evokes a huge moral perversity about the education system, NYU, and the current generation of academics.

Media is media. Whether or not the article is meant to portray a negative side of NYU, the point of the article is on plagiarism. IF the writer or BW intends to portray a negative side of NYU––I'm not saying he/it does––, well congratulations, NYU commenters, for helping him/it out by showing how ignorant NYU students can be.

For the record, if you ARE cheating, you're NOT trying.

If anyone is about to tell me that I'm delusional/idealistic/hypocritical because he/she bets that I too cheat and plagiarize "like everyone else who does," then you're missing the point again. I could defend myself and say that I don't engage in it, but that's not the point, so I'll save my legitimate self-defense for another time.

Get the point guys.

SALEEMAH

October 23, 2011 4:58 PM

I am a doctoral student at on on-line school. The school uses Turnitin for all assignments and some of the discussion posts. If you plagarize you will be caught immediately. The assignment will have to be re-submmitted at a reduced grade. Continuous offenses of plagarism will result in the student being expelled from the program.

SALEEMAH

Soar

February 7, 2012 3:25 AM

Cheating can be dniefed differently by every individual. What I see as cheating may not be the same as my peers, it can also change in every situation. I am actually not surprised to hear that this happened especially in a school this large. With hundreds of students taking this class every semester and fraternities and sororities who have filed these test away they are bound to leak through a school at some point. Many professors from universities every where repeat their exams leaving students more chances to get answers. Some will not see this as cheating if the teacher did not change the exam and they received “help” from their peer or friend.As for how this was handle I think that it disrespectful for both parties. The professor should of kept this a private matter and learned more before letting this become a public matter. I do however think that it is ethical and a good decision to have a new midterm so all students can have the same opportunities. The students I believe are at fault as well because the should have more respect for themselves and the institution to be able to study and pass the test on their own. I do not believe that the students should be punished in later years for being in this class, the prospective employer has no way of knowing whether he/she has cheated and making the accusation would be unethical on their part.

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