Academic integrity

Arts, Sciences and Engineering adopt new plagiarism policy

Faculty in Arts, Sciences and Engineering will now be required to report instances of academic dishonesty to the Dean of Student Affairs, following a resolution approved by the Educational Policy Committee and reported to the full faculty at a spring faculty meeting.

And starting this semester, all A, S & E faculty will have access to an online program designed to help detect plagiarism in students’ work.

Penalties for academic infractions will remain at the discretion of the faculty member, as has been past practice, but faculty also will be provided with a set of guidelines. The new policy is intended to provide “consistency in the treatment of academic dishonesty and allows the institution to identify repeat offenders.”

“It will not handcuff you to any one outcome,” James Glaser, dean of undergraduate education, told the faculty. “You will still have freedom to deal with the case in a grading sense as you did before, but you will now have some guidance, some structure to the decision that you make.”

“We now have a set of guidelines that exist as the basic starting point or standard,” said Bruce Reitman, dean of student affairs. “But again, they’re guidelines. I will not ever have an argument with you if you are demonstrating why something should not apply because of the uniqueness of the case,” he told the faculty.

In addition, professors and other instructors will be able to use Turnitin, an Internet-based anti-plagiarism program that checks student work against a database of previously submitted student papers and published articles. The use of Turnitin ( is optional, Reitman said, but faculty who use it are asked to inform students about it in their course syllabus.

During the 2005-06 academic year, the biology department used Turnitin on a pilot basis “and is very, very satisfied and happy with its use and its availability,” Reitman said. The program is used at many other universities.

Michelle Gaudette, a lecturer in the biology department, used Turnitin for the laboratory portion of Bio 13L—a class of about 350 students—during the fall ’05 semester. “Overall, I would describe the experience as positive,” Gaudette said. Reaction from lab instructors and students was “fairly positive” as well.

“Bio 13L is a large class with 13 separate lab sections, each taught by a different lab instructor. While it is possible for each instructor to monitor for potential unauthorized collaborations and copying within a single lab section, it is quite difficult to detect similarities between papers handed in to two different instructors,” Gaudette said.

“The Turnitin program … gives us a tool to identify similarities that previously went undetected,” Gaudette said. “In addition, this tool is objective: It subjects all papers to the same algorithm. It does not rely on any single person’s ability, or inability, to see the similarities.”

Helene Ragovin is a senior writer in Tufts’ Office of Publications. She can be reached at