Revolution Lullabye

April 16, 2015

Sutherland-Smith, Retribution, Deterrence and Reform: The Dilemmas of Plagiarism Management in Universities

Sutherland-Smith, Wendy. “Retribution, Deterrence and Reform: The Dilemmas of Plagiarism Management in Universities.” Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management 31.1 (6 January 2010): 5-16. Print.

Sutherland-Smith argues for “sustainable reform” in how universities create and implement plagiarism policies (13). Sutherland-Smith contends that the dominant discourse in current university plagiarism statements and policies is grounded in the metaphors and language of criminal law. She points out that plagiarism is an issue that cannot only be addressed through detection and punishment; pedagogy (how students use sources) and ethics (the relationship among students, faculty, and scholars) also must play a role in how universities discuss and manage plagiarism.

Sutherland-Smith’s argument is grounded in her analysis of 18 plagiarism statements from top-tier universities in Australia, the UK, and the US. Sutherland-Smith analyzed the language used in these statements to define plagiarism, to describe the policies and procedures surrounding cases of plagiarism, and to explain the outcomes of the plagiarism procedure (7). Sutherland-Smith also analyzed 164 media reports about plagiarism published in two major Australian newspapers from 2004 to 2008. The media reports were used in Sutherland-Smith’s argument to describe what the public perception of plagiarism is, and how that perception relates to how universities describe and explain their plagiarism polices and procedures.

Sutherland-Smith points out that if universities hold students responsible for citation, universities must provide training/professional development for faculty across the disciplines for how to teach citation and other source use issues around plagiarism. This training, Sutherland-Smith argues, extends to all faculty, full-time and part-time, and is essential for creating and maintaining consistent policies and expectations , such as the use of plagiarism-detection software (9).

Quotable Quotes

“Universities need to re-examine long-held views that increasing punishment and detection processes results in deterrence of plagiarism and therefore a decrease in its appearance. The equation is faulty, as deterring students from engaging in acts of plagiarism does not necessarily mean they will take a path of academic integrity” (12).

“Focusing on developing plagiarism management strategies grounded in the web of ethical relationships that constitute the living organism of the university is a responsible place to start” (13).

“Clearly, the discourse of criminal law is the mainstay of many universities’ framing of plagiarism management policies and processes” (8).

“The very discourse describing students as plagiarism ‘offenders’ positions them as ‘wrongdoers’ even before any allegations are proven, which could cause some students considerable anxiety” (8).

“Universities also place the burden of understanding plagiarism and attribution conventions on students” (9).

“The discourse describing plagiarism incidents is often charged with emotion, closely aligned to the language of criminal law and reflects nations of retribution and punishment” (10) – the language of media/news reports. use of moral/immoral terms, panic about a plagiarism epidemic, linking and slippage between the terms plagiarism and cheating, blaming Internet/online source use for a unproven rise in plagiarism (10, 11)

Scholarship has shown that plagiarism “is certainly neither rampant nor unstoppable” (11).

Notable Notes

words used in university policies and procedures that relate to criminal law: penalties, sanctions, offender, accused. “Highly formal register” = legal language (8)

in these policies, there is ample language for penalty and punishment; not for reform and rehabilitation


January 11, 2013

Weiser, Peer Review in the Tenure and Promotion Process

Weiser, Irwin. “Peer Review in the Tenure and Promotion Process.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (June 2012): 645-672.

Weiser’s essay, included in this issue’s Symposium on Peer Review, describes the role of peer review in the tenure and promotion process. Weiser’s explanations, taken from his experiences as a faculty member, WPA, department chair, and dean at two different universities (Purdue University and York College of Pennsylvania), show the variance of the tenure and promotion process at American colleges and universities. Wesier argues that this variance is not a drawback: institutions have different missions, and their expectations for tenure (scholarship, teaching, and service/engagement) need to reflect those particular university and department-level missions.

Weiser organizes his essay through a series of questions: Who is reviewed? Who reviews? What is reviewed (and by whom)? What are the criteria for review? Are reviews (always) confidential?  He spends considerable time in the essay describing the purpose and function of external letters of evaluation, a requirement for tenure that is not universal yet increasing (almost all research, PhD-granting universities require external letters.) He distinguishes between external letters of support and external letters of evaluation, and argues that these external letters should only guide the internal committees who are ultimately charged with the decisions of tenure and promotion.

At the end of his article, Weiser offers a series of questions that can be used as a heuristic for developing clear, objective, and fair tenure and promotion processes.  The questions are addressed to the multiple stakeholders in the process: candidates up for tenure; members of a tenure and promotion committee; external reviewers.

Weiser also argues that the processes for tenure and promotion need to be revisable so that they continue to reflect current expectations, values, and realities.  He specifically cites the shrinking opportunties to publish scholarly monographs, the advent of digital journals and digital publication venues, and the emergence of scholarship of teaching and engagement as contemporary realities that need to be addressed in the construction of tenure and promotion guidelines.

Notable Notes

history of peer review in tenure and promotion tied to AAUP tenure guidelines (1940) and the history of peer review in publication.

“peer” can mean multiple things (654)

the local levels of review are the most important – future committees and levels base their recommendations off of them (653).

Quotable Quotes

“Peer review, both internal and external, serves two important purposes in the academy. First, it provides the opportunity for the work of colleagues to be evaluated and acknowledged for its contributions in the classroom, in the profession, and in the wider culture. Second, through the system of checks and balances that assures that work is being evaluated by numerous people, many of who base their evaluations only on the accomplishments of a candidate and not on their personal knowledge of her or him, peer review provides a level of protection for candidates from personal or intellectual biases. Peer review supports the foundation of tenure: the preservation of academic freedom and the protection of faculty from unwarranted dismissal” (670).

“And it should be clear that variation in policies and practices is appropriate, because it acknowledges the impracticality and unfairness of a one-size-fits-all set of criteria that are applied regardless of institutional mission. Evaluation for candidates for tenure and promotion must be viewed in context of mission, with recognition that different emphases on research, teaching, and service are appropriate” (665).

“There appears to be an increasingly common agreement that faculty are members of multiple communities – communities of engaged teachers whose work can be – perhaps best can be – evaluated locally, but also of communities of scholars whose discursive work is best evaluated by other members of those communities, people who present at the same conferences, publish in the same journals (or edit them), and are members of the same professional organizations” (655).

November 17, 2010

Little and Rose, A Home of Our Own

Little, Sherry Burgus, and Shirley K. Rose. “A Home of Our Own: Establishing a Department of Rhetoric and Writing Studies at San Diego State University.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 18.1-2 (Fall/Winter 1994): 16-28. Print.

Little and Rose describe how the stand-alone Department of Rhetoric and Writing were created at SDSU, explaining the changes that occured in the establishment of the new department, and argue that WPAs need more than good reasons for advocating for a separate writing program; they need to use rhetoric, good reasoning to argue for independence, which comes through an understanding of local institutional constraints, mission, and politics. They stress the importance of knowing university polity (organizational and governance structure); policy (principles and procedures for getting things done); and politics (who has power and sway, who are your allies.)

Notes and Quotes

go beyond the English department to the rest of the institution – get to know others in other departments.

Department of Rhetoric and Writing became independent at San Diego State University in May 1993 (Colgate, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, UT Austin all around the same time)

Little and Rose, rejecting the metaphor of divorce to describe the separation of composition from literature into independent departments, adopt Phelps’ metaphor of describing composition as a ‘grown child’ who needs a ‘home of her own’ as a separate and equal adult.

They give their responses and arguments to the following objections: 1. Writing has always been in English (just not historically or currently true) 2. study and teaching of writing is necessarily linked to the teaching and reading of literature 3. the writing program needs the English department for protection (placing it outside will strenghten it, showing connections to other disciplines besides just English 4. composition is not a legitimate discipline 5. English departments don’t marginalize composition (just look at the pervasive labor problem and assumption that no one wants to teach writing) 6. money isn’t an issue (it always is and composition is a very fiscally efficient and profitable enterprise) 7. loss of graduate TA lines in English 8. if English majors dry up, there won’t be composition classes for English faculty to teach

“Creating a separate writing department does not, then, separate reading from writing, but terminates the exclusive relationship between writing studies and literary studies” (20).

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