Thursday, September 01, 2005

I want to buy my own paper 

A graduate student finds that a paper she wrote appears on three term-paper websites, and is suing. What is weird is her school's reaction:
Ms. Macellari contends that she owns the paper. She further states that she never gave the sites permission to publish the paper (on South Africa, written when she was a junior year abroad student at Mount Holyoke College), and that she never had any communication with the company or Mr. Carroll.

Her attorney does state that she did post the paper to a university Web site briefly as part of her course work. Although that fact does not resolve the issues in this case, it does serve as a reminder (as the chief information officer for Mount Holyoke College is quoted in the Chronicle) that �professors should not require students to post papers to the Internet, unless they do so using password-protected areas of a college�s Web site.�
Why do faculty encourage publication of their students' work? One reason could be to get feedback on the work from people off campus as well as on campus. Putting the information in a password-protected web means it is only to be shared with other students in the classroom; there is no reason why that's the best pedagogy for teaching, say, research methods or a research seminar. Maybe Mt. Holyoke is trying to deflect criticism; I don't see how they could have prevented online theft. But what then to do except have faculty be more vigilant in accepting papers that may have been bought?

I have faith that technology will solve this problem.