Editorial: Terry Magnuson’s Plagiarism Starts a Conversation About Academic Integrity

In the latest public controversy to emerge from UNC in recent years, former vice chancellor for research Terry Magnuson resigned March 10 after admitting plagiarism during a grant application.

Magnuson’s case amplified the lingering problem surrounding academic integrity, not just at UNC, but in academia more broadly — an issue that has been exasperated by nearly two years of virtual education.

Let’s face it, most of us have not been spared academic dishonesty at one point or another in our school careers, whether in our K-12 experience or in teaching. superior.

Although we may be ashamed and reluctant to acknowledge any wrongdoing, studies have shown that cheating is quite common in academia. Between 75 and 98 percent of students have admitted to cheating at some point in their college career, according to data from top accredited colleges.

And in a digital age where resources like Chegg, Course Hero, Quizlet, and StackOverflow can make it easier to find answers or get explanations for problems we’d otherwise be lost in, it can be hard not to use them. .

Throughout the reign of “Zoom University”, it was even harder for professors to monitor what their students were actually doing behind their computer screens. Unless using a locked browser, professors could only hope that students would abide by the honor code and not use online resources.

But taking the easy way out is just too appealing, especially for very difficult classes where heavily weighted exam or assignment grades can make or break your grade and GPA.

And Magnuson shows that this problem is not limited to students either.

Indeed, while many professors are reluctant to confess to wrongdoing, there are many stories of professors who have anonymously admitted to cheating during their college careers.

As a result, this may lead some students to wonder how professors and teaching assistants can blame them for cheating when they themselves have probably done the same thing in the past. In Magnuson’s case, the effect is worse because he was such a high-ranking person in the administration.

However, just as a student would be punished for academic dishonesty, Magnuson was also punished in an arguably harsher way. Along with losing his prestigious role at UNC, his reputation has been tarnished and will likely have a hard time finding another position in academia for some time to come.

This episode serves as a warning to students by reminding them that no matter how far away we are from college in the future, the shady things from our past always have a chance to resurface. The effect is particularly severe for those looking to work in industries that tend to have high public profile, such as academia or politics.

In an ideal world, we would all avoid academic dishonesty and be the model students our parents, school, and society want us to be. But in the real world, that can be a tough question, especially if you’re in a class where the teacher is seemingly unfit to teach and faces pressure to maintain a good GPA.

Magnuson’s departure should not be treated as a one-time event, but rather as the start of a long and difficult conversation about maintaining and enforcing academic integrity.

@dthopinion

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