Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 30, No. 3

October 13, 2005


Student Advocate Program has strategies to inform undergrads

By Allison Martens

With midterm exams and term paper deadlines lurking on the horizon, the Concordia’s Student Advocate Program reminds stressed-out students that cheating or plagiarizing assignments could get them suspended, expelled, or otherwise blight their permanent record.

During the 2004-05 academic year, there were 416 complaints of academic misconduct filed to all four faculty offices and the School of Graduate Studies, up from 340 the previous school year.

Jennifer Hopkins, coordinator for the Concordia Student Advocate Program (SAP), said, “It’s no more a problem here than at any other university in North America, but it’s enough to keep myself and several other people very busy. Whether it’s 500 people who get charged or five, it’s too many.”

The program’s primary mandate is to represent and support students who get into trouble or need help with matters related to the university’s Code of Conduct (Academic) and the Code of Rights and Responsibilities. However, SAP has also developed several preventative measures to keep students out of hot water in the first place.

SAP will soon release (with the help of IITS Creative Media Services) four faculty-specific flash presentations that professors can easily access online. Unlike some on line animation aimed at students, Hopkins says these presentations are not childish but “sexy” and “sophisticated” in style.

“Students either don’t know what it is [plagiarism, usually] or they have a basic idea of what they think it is. However, many don’t know the intricate rules of proper citation. Plagiarism isn’t only a case of copying material word for word: It’s paraphrasing other’s ideas, as well as statistics, graphics, and so on.”

Hopkins says there are all kinds of plagiarizers: model students who become overwhelmed with work, those who think they know how to cite sources correctly but don’t, or those who shamelessly cut and paste off the Internet.

She says intentional plagiarism seems to be an easier way to cut corners. Unlike cheating in an exam, there is no immediate sense of risk, there is no one watching over you as you break the rules.


SAP is also reaching out to international students to familiarize them with academic expectations at Concordia. Pamphlets about plagiarism have been translated into simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, French and Arabic.

“I think we have to be able to offer access to plagiarism information in different languages, since we’re a university that prides itself on diversity,” Hopkins said.

Whether a student comes from Beijing or Brossard, the Code is applied even-handedly, said Heather Adams-Robinette, Coordinator of University Policies and Student Tribunals. “There is the expectation that all students familiarize themselves with the regulations of the univerity.”

Although Hopkins laughed when she recounted being recognized while shopping as “that scary plagiarism lady” by a sales clerk, she gives talks at the outset of the year not to scare students stiff, but to inform them.

“If we can stop the ones getting into trouble with this information, that will cut the numbers significantly. That’s the least we can do for students who want to do things right.”