Minutes of Teaching Committee Meeting 9 November 2001

Present: billw (chair), kenr, amustafa, loch, sowmya, nadinem, richardb, farizas, jahan, brettn, kaie, chak, keller, lambert
Apologies: charlesw, jas, odiessel, steve

Special Meeting on Plagiarism Policy

Five motions were passed, one was rejected, and two were deferred for lack of time. The motions were mostly amended before being passeed, and the list below shows the motions in their amended forms:

  1. RESOLVED: That the School of Computer Science and Engineering strongly encourages use laboratory programming examinations and/or other alternative assessment methods, as hurdles to prevent people without appropriate programming skills from passing those courses.

    Where feasible, examination questions should be included that test understanding of assignment material.

  2. RESOLVED: That the School of Computer Science and Engineering shall provide a clear definition of plagiarism as opposed to acceptable cooperation. This definition should be available

    1. as part of the yellow form,
    2. separately as a School Plagiarism Policy web page, and
    3. linked to each course web page, as part of the course introductory information.

    Where aspects of the School Policy are inappropriate (as might occur in course with group project rules or other cooperation rules), the course web page and introductory handout shall detail the differences.

    The language used in communicating plagiarism rules to students shall be "matter-of-fact" rather than threatening.

  3. RESOLVED: That the School should establish a plagiarism working group, including interested staff, postgraduate students, and COMPSOC representation, to try to ensure that the plagiarism detection methods in use in the School are as strong as possible.

  4. RESOLVED: Lecturers may impose a penalty of 0 FL on any recipient of a substantially copied or purchased assignment and a penalty of loss of all marks for the assignment for a complicit originator. Lecturers shall have discretion as to whether to apply the full penalty. If they do not apply the standard penalty, they may apply a lesser penalty, or they may reprimand the student.

    The remaining parts of this resolution are to assist staff in interpreting the plagiarism policy, and will not be published to students.

    The term "substantially copied" is defined, for the purpose of this resolution, to mean that a significant proportion of the assignment is copied. It would not apply to copying of a single, small function, unless in the lecturer's judgment that function was the core of the assignment. It would certainly apply to an assignment of which 80% or more was copied. Intermediate cases lie within the lecturer's discretion.

    The basis of the School's Plagiarism Policy is that the intention of assignments and other set works is to ensure that the student learns certain facts and skills. The penalisation of plagiarism is to be seen against this background, and cases where students copy but understand the material that they copied are to be seen as less serious than cases where the student does not understand the copied material. It is likely however that an "understanding" copier will not have fully learned the skills involved in producing the copied code.

  5. RESOLVED: That the School of Computer Science and Engineering shall implement a central database of persons penalised or reprimanded for plagiarism. The database shall record details of course, session, lecturer, originator(s) and recipient(s). This database shall not be available to academic staff, but shall be managed by the School Student Office. The protocol for its use shall be that when a new, complete record of plagiarism for a student is entered into the database, previous records for the same student(s) shall be retrieved. This database shall be maintained for 4 years and then reviewed.

    Students shall have access to their own record (if any) in such a database, on request, and a right to have proven errors of fact in their record corrected. If such errors of fact meant that a previously applied penalty was inappropriate, then the penalty shall be reviewed. If errors of fact meant that there was no plagiarism, then the record shall be expunged.

    Remark (not part of resolution): the aim is now to determine the numbers of multiple offenders against plagiarism rules. While the resolution as passed no longer requires full details of offences to be kept in the School database, it would be unwise for lecturers not to retain the evidence on which they based their penalties.

  6. REJECTED UNANIMOUSLY: That the School of Computer Science and Engineering shall not normally employ as a casual academic, a person who has been recorded in the School plagiarism database as having been penalised as the originator or recipient of an assignment. Note that students reprimanded rather than penalised may be employed.

    This rule may be set aside in an individual case by the Associate Head of School or another person designated by the Head of School. This might occur, for example, if a student who was convicted once in first year and who subsequently had a superlative academic record with no further breaches of plagiarism rules, applied to tutor in their fourth year.

  7. CONSIDERATION OF THIS MOTION WAS DEFERRED: That members of the School of Computer Science and Engineering shall apply the following constraints when investigating suspected plagiarism offences:

    1. If students are interviewed, there shall be more than one staff member present at the interview, and a record of the interview shall be made, and a copy provided to the student. The student must sign to acknowledge that they have received the copy. If they refuse to accept a copy or to sign, the staff members attending the interview shall state this in the record of interview. The staff members attending the interview shall sign the record of interview.

    2. In conducting an interview with a suspected plagiarist, members of the interview panel shall not use intimidatory techniques or intimidatory language. It is legitimate to confront students with conflicting statements that they have made, or with a conflict between their statement(s) and their submitted material, or with a conflict between statement(s) that they have made and statement(s) that another involved student has made.

  8. CONSIDERATION OF THIS MOTION WAS DEFERRED: That the School of Computer Science and Engineering shall permit students found to have committed a plagiarism offence to appeal against the conviction or the severity of the penalty, under the following conditions:

    1. The student shall appeal in writing, stating the nature of the appeal (conviction or severity of penalty) and the grounds of the appeal.

    2. The initial avenue of appeal shall be to the lecturer-in-charge of the course. If the matter is not satisfactorily resolved, the student may appeal to the School Grievance Officer.

    3. If the appeal is upheld, the plagiarism penalty and the plagiarism record shall be amended.

    4. An appeal shall be deemed frivolous if no relevant extra material is produced in connection with the appeal document, or if the relevant extra material could reasonably have been produced in the original consideration of the plagiarism offence. Neither the fact of conviction nor the severity of the penalty shall be varied in the case of a frivolous appeal.

    5. Appeals shall be recorded in the record in the plagiarism database together with the outcome of the appeal, factors relevant to the outcome, and in particular whether or not the appeal was deemed frivolous.

    6. An academic, being the Lecturer-in-Charge, the student's Program Director, School Grievance Officer, or Head of School, may instigate a review of a plagiarism case on becoming aware of new facts in relation to that case. The review would be conducted by the original panel, supplemented by the academic instigating the review if s/he wishes to be involved.

School of Computer Science & Engineering
The University of New South Wales
Sydney 2052, AUSTRALIA
Phone:  +61 2 9385 6876
Fax:    +61 2 9385 4071