Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Fifty Shades of Academic Integrity Enforcement. The BDSM of #HigherEd with #EdTech tools

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I don’t want to hear it any more.

I can’t stand it when someone tries to frame romance around a notion that BDSM spilling into every day life is an acceptable way to love someone. I cannot accept that violence, aggression and domination can lead to a healthy relationship (outside the bedroom, I won’t comment on inside) and I don’t understand why people do this.

I feel like a lot of the conversations around academic integrity right now are horrendous – patronizing in ways that border on violence, aggression, domination – but somehow framed as some kind of loving paternalism.

It’s kind of like… pretending students have any rights for informed consent…. it’s barely informed and there’s usually no option to opt out (all respect to folks who DO give an opt out option), so it’s usually coercion at best. It’s like covering someone’s eyes and mouth, giving them no other option, then asking them if it’s ok. It feels that painful to me right now.

If you want to teach academic integrity, then take time explaining to students what it is and why it’s important, don’t just throw their papers into Turnitin and let Turnitin do the work. This is akin to telling them that once they are out in the world which doesn’t use Turnitin, they are free from the bondage of plagiarism detection and can roam free. I know some faculty use it in more pedagogically sound ways to help students but the majority don’t and students are never given a choice of whether to submit their copyrighted material into it or not. The company profits out of students’ papers and the institution PAYS it to do so!

And proctoring tools. First, the ones that lockdown your browser. Bondage, you see the analogy? Literal bondage. And then the person watching you taking the exam or the camera filming you while taking the exam… and the AI tracking whether you make a wrong move. Just how much more stress can we put on students in a time like this? Read Shea Swauger on this, even before the pandemic.

Two things happened recently.

One – a case where someone was discussing an academic integrity case on Twitter said “rpt” on Twitter and I was unsure if they meant repeat or report. I made an intentional decision to suggest asking the student to repeat (assuming they didn’t mean to plagiarize) and thankfully the professor did that even though their original intent was to report. This has nothing to do with the proctoring/Turnitin issue… but just to say that if our intention is to teach students then we gain more by teaching a student what they did wrong and giving them a chance to redo the assignment and learn for real, than we gain by reporting them. Right?

The second case is a good student of mine being accused of plagiarism when I’m 100% sure it was unintentional. There’s nothing I can do to help, but I’m having trouble sleeping knowing the student, in a time of already extreme anxiety and stress has to go through this on the semester they’re supposed to be graduating. I mean, give people a break!!! Just f*%¥ing teach the student what they did wrong and give them a chance to correct it… or give them a zero but don’t f*%*%ing let someone go through a court case at a time like this.

You know despite all this, I really understand that some faculty can approach the use of Turnitin with a pedagogical approach to help students write. It’s rare but it happens.  I still don’t like it.

And despite all this, I empathize with faculty who are so traditional they can’t shift their paradigm suddenly to do a non-proctored assessment. But I still don’t get how they can ignore the potential psychological damage this can do, especially in these times.

One Comment

  1. Hear, hear! By using the tool (Turnitin, Safe Guard, etc.), instructors also send a strange message: A certain percentage of matches are an acceptable amount of plagiarism. Students ask all the time what percentage of matches are acceptable when the question they should be asking is why are those items a match. Not every match is plagiarism, and that’s an opportunity for teaching.

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