Over the past academic year, the CSU Student Advocacy Centre has embarked on a number of ambitious campaigns to promote student rights, and has already started to see results, according to a new report published this past week.
The third part of a five-phase campaign initiated by the advocacy centre which aims to reform aspects of the Concordia Academic Code of Conduct is underway, according to a report released on Nov. 23 which reviews the centre’s progress on several fronts in 2010-2011.
For one, the report outlines the steps taken towards advancing its academic fairness campaign, previously termed the intent clause project.
The third phase has revealed that universities are noting an uptick in plagiarism in universities, with international students accounting for a disproportionate percentage of the cases on campus. The report cites University of Toronto legal aid clinic lawyer Karen Bellinger, who noted that while international students make up 12 per cent of that university’s student body, they are involved in over 50 per cent of the academic misconduct cases brought before her.
The lack of a “no intent to deceive” clause in the university’s code of conduct can lead to students being severely sanctioned for honest errors, the report states. The centre also seeks to draw attention to the plight of international students, as punishment for academic offences can often result in disproportionate financial and academic costs.
Reasons given for the discrepancy include a variance in educational experiences from country to country, and cultural differences that account for different notions of what constitutes plagiarism.
The first phase involved examining the policies of other Canadian universities when it comes to academic offenses, while in the second phase the centre conducted a review of 406 random misconduct cases that were brought to them.
That second step, conducted as of August of this year, was conducted with the goal of determining the factors that increase a student’s risk of being charged with academic misconduct. As it was unable to do so conclusively, the centre therefore established a new system for managing data to measure those factors more effectively.
The centre found that nearly 60 per cent of academic misconduct cases involved plagiarismâ€”234 out of 406 cases brought to the centre were related to the offence. Meanwhile, other charges such as cheating and having a cell phone during an examination accounted for 20 per cent and 13 per cent of the cases, respectively. Unauthorized collaboration accounted for eight per cent of the cases.
In the fourth phase, the centre will speak to faculty and administrators to gather input (slated to take place in November, according to the report). In the final stage, the centre will present its findings to Senate.
The centre was successful in asking the university to remove a student’s permanent code in the official transcript because of the private information such as the student’s date of birth and sex that could be accessed. That privacy rights campaign was embarked upon along with the support of student union president Lex Gill.
In the last school year, the centre also embarked upon a campaign to reach out to non-governmental organizations with the goal of potentially creating relationships and collaborations so that its clients may also benefit from these organizations’ services.