Honor Code vs. paper mill: Know the academic and ethical penalties

Illustration by Alejandro Gonzalez, USA TODAY

Illustration by Alejandro Gonzalez, USA TODAY

Student success depends on making ethical choices during your college years. The reasons for buying a term paper online and passing it off as your own are many, not the least of which is that starting your adult life off by cheating makes you a loser. Your student advantage should not include buying term papers. Consult your school’s Honor Code and learn the academic penalties for plagiarizing. Some can be immense and life- altering.

Honor Code and Honor Committee

Many colleges have an Honor Code that addresses proper behavior and assigns punishment for infractions such as plagiarism, cheating, lying, stealing, forgery, and computer fraud.

For example, under its “Academic Dishonesty Offenses,” Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan, defines plagiarism subject to disciplinary action as: “the unacknowledged use of materials prepared by another person or agency engaged in the selling of term papers, reports, or other academic materials; or the appropriating, buying, receiving as a gift, or obtaining by any other means another person’s work and the unacknowledged submission or incorporation of it in one’s own work.”

Academic punishment

Students, faculty and staff may report violations of the Honor Code to the Honor Committee, which will then gather evidence, hear from witnesses and the accused and present a case against the offender. The Honor Committee then presents a verdict, and recommends punishment on the guilty. The guilty may appeal the verdict and the punishment.

Penalties vary proportionate to the level of offense. For some schools the penalty for minor offenses of plagiarism are:

• A warning against further infractions.

• Ineligibility to participate in activities that represent the college.

• Requirement to rewrite the paper.

• Lowering the paper grade by one full grade.

• Community service to be performed.

• A written statement of the infraction is placed in the student’s file.

More severe penalties may include:

• A failing grade on the paper.

• A failing grade for the entire course.

• Academic disciplinary probation.

• Suspension from the college for one or more semesters.

• Dismissal from the college.

Records of the hearing of the Honor Committee are kept on file for a period of time after the student’s graduation date or last attendance date. Failed courses are put on the student’s permanent record.

Stain on your record

In a highly publicized case, University of North Carolina football player Michael McAdoo was caught plagiarizing a term paper. The ruling from the university’s honor court doled out a penalty: “He received an F on the assignment, an F for the course, academic probation for the fall 2010 semester and an academic suspension for the spring 2011 semester,” reported Dan Kane in “UNC honor court failed to find McAdoo’s obvious plagiarism,” posted July 17, 2011 in News & Observer.

Term paper sales illegal

According to an article on Lawyers.com, “Several states, such as Massachusetts, make it illegal for anyone to prepare or sell term papers or other academic papers for someone else. In 2011, a Massachusetts lawyer placed ads online offering to write term papers for law students for a mere $300. He was suspended from practicing law and was fired from his job as a court clerk.”

Ethical issues at stake

In 2010, an Illinois judge ordered a paper mill to cease selling term papers citing copyright infringement. One of the plaintiffs, Chad Weidner, a lecturer at Roosevelt Academy in the Netherlands, brought the suit in part to bring attention to the problem of plagiarism and to encourage academic integrity.

“Real research is both time-consuming and difficult,” he says. “To think that there is some kind of quick fix, be it a paper sold online, a paper borrowed from a peer or creative rewriting of an academic’s work, is just unacceptable,” reported by Mary Beth Marklein in “Rule on online term papers cites copyright questions,” posted February 1, 2010 on USAToday.com.

Are you afraid that buying a term paper will leave a permanent stain on your academic record?

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