Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Professor's plagiarism case against colleague

Inside Higher Ed reports that a Math/CS professor at Bethel University has accused another professor in the same department of plagiarizing his CS1 labs. The accuser, Benjamin Shults, says that he gave Brian Turnquist his labs for class use which had Shults' name on top. Turnquist subsequently replaced Shults' name and other identifying marks (like swapping out images of Shults with Turnquist's). The modified labs were placed on Turnquist's website.

Turnquist was found guilty of "innocent infringement" by Bethel's Grievance Review Committee, was forced to give Shults an apology, and had to remove all the labs from his website. Apparently Shults is not happy with the committee's slap on the wrist. He has not received an apology yet (see the comment at the end of the article entitled "corrections"), and he's created a website that documents the whole affair.

When I read this article, I immediately thought of all those assignments and labs I had borrowed from my fellow faculty members and the labs/assignments I have given to others to use in their classes. I have always removed their names on the documents and thought nothing of it... I assumed they were doing the same. But I have also never posted the documents on a website for public consumption.

Our department is now discussing this issue, and I think we'll all be more diligent about giving credit when modifying another's lab/assignment for class use. However, we all agreed that the best way to handle a situation like Bethel's is to go directly to the offending party.

Since Bethel is a Christian university like Harding, I couldn't help but wonder how applying the biblical principles set forth by Jesus and Paul would have drastically changed the situation.

Matthew 18:15:
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother."

Matthew 5:38-39:
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."

1 Corinthians 6:6-7:
"But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?"