Index of Topics 4/15/08

        Approved 4/29/2008;  to Faculty Senate 5/5/08

Office 2007, Plagiarism Detection Tool - Discussions




Regular Meeting  --  April 15, 2008


Chair James Hearne called the meeting of the 2007-2008 Academic Coordinating Commission to order at 4:04 pm on Tuesday, April 15, 2008.  There were eleven (11) members present and the Registrar (1) and the Recorder (1) for a total of thirteen (13).  


Approval of ACC minutes

Members approved minutes of April 7, 2008 as written.


Announcements from the Chair

Hearne reminded Commissioners that the charge as approved by ACC would be forwarded in the ACC minutes and reviewed by the Faculty Senate on April 21, 2008 at its regular meeting.  Hearne noted that the Senate may wish to amend the charge and send it back to ACC, but that it could not formally change the minutes as they stand.


Reading of Curricular Minutes (Exhibit B)



Curriculum Committee



ACC Action


International Programs Advisory


Discussion Items



Office 2007 Installation

o        Hearne announced that as of Fall Quarter 2008 computer systems in classrooms will have Office 2007 installed, and Office 2003 will be retired. As this is significantly different in its look and icons, it may be a good idea to communicate with constituents to discover what objections there might be on curricular grounds.  For example, will student Power Point presentations that are created at home in Office 2003 run in 2007 and vice versa?

o        Provost Murphy explained that as long as you have the most recent service pack (patch) installed, both will run for each other (this is a free patch and available to students to download from the web)


Plagiarism Detection Tool (Blackboard)

Hearne announced that John Farquhar, Manager of Multimedia and Web Development in Academic Technology is concerned about turning on a plagiarism detection tool without consulting faculty as to whether the tool should be made widely available.  Hearne explained that the way it works is that either a student or a faculty member could submit a paper to the plagiarism filter and find out what may be plagiaristic in nature.

  1. Concerns stem from possible intellectual property considerations, and decisions as to whether work from students is appropriate to enter into a campus wide or more universal database for comparison.  Shouldn’t the student have a say so in the matter, and is there a mechanism whereby the student can give permission.

  2. Another concern is whether a student name would appear in any subsequent transactions, whether the comparison is only to papers by other students, or to plagiaristic phrases from major databases.

  3. Whether the service is reliable.

  4. Some commissioners think the intellectual property is not that significant because you cannot retrieve other documents, you can only compare your stuff to something that is already in the database, and you would simply be asked to footnote a quote or something to that effect.

  5. Another major concern is “big brotherism”  --  do we want to have that notion now applied to academic work, and begin to accumulate a data base of “monstrous oversights” that grows and grows?

  6. Some Commissioners responded that this is “tit for tat”.  Students are using technology, and so we have to use it too, we have little choice.  The whole idea is basically like spam filters for email.  We are in a “googulized world” and the ability to sling things together from varied sources is far greater than a few years ago, or when we went to school.

§         Provost Murphy spoke to the authentication concern, and whether the tool keeps identity attached to an uploaded product.  Another question is how can you establish a source of plagiarism, if you do not know the source of the plagiarism?  On a second issue he mentioned that faculty can exercise judgment.  There are places where students produce significant creative writing and would like to have property rights over these.  They would like assurances that no one can get into their data base.  That is where questions of intellectual property can arise.  And thirdly, Murphy would like some “legal eagle” to look at this to see if we are exposing ourselves to intellect property rights; this may not be so important at the lower undergraduate level but becomes more important as we progress through the curriculum. 

§         Commissioners asked:  When a student paper goes into that database, against what is it being filtered? Is it filtered against like papers that have been submitted inside Western, or databases from outside Western?  Students seem to “google” from a pastiche of sources on the web rather than from actual papers already turned in, although there are sites that are alive to those web stores that sell papers.

§         One faculty member makes his students submit papers and keeps all of his papers, and submits them to his own data base.  He had a copied paper come up similar to one submitted 2 years ago.  He wondered if there was intellectual property connected with keeping all these papers.  And would Blackboard automatically go back to all those hundreds of papers in its checking tool?

§         Chair Hearne suggested that the faculty should share some views on what is ethical and appropriate to an institute like this one.  For some people only hard copies are accepted.  So it is possible on Google to type in a string or scan a page and seek coincidences of plagiarism.  This is relatively easy to do.

§         Hearne confirmed that we are not paying extra for this tool although some faculty members may have paid for such a service in the past.  A lot of universities are using this or similar tools.

§         One Commissioner disliked the notion that submitting all the papers one receives assumes that all papers are plagiarized, and that is very different from suspecting that a particular paper has some plagiarism in it.  Another Commissioner responded that in computer science this type of submission has occurred for years.  Automatically all programs are run against this tool, because of the close proximity of students in the labs, and the ease of copying programs.

§         Hearne believes that the way it works is that there are two sources; one is a database of materials turned in at Western, and a second choice in which a document can be compared to everything that has been turned in anywhere.  At the same time, one has a choice if one does not want to have student papers submitted. 

§         Provost Murphy pointed out that you can ask your students to submit their papers themselves.  This can be very helpful --for instance if the tool finds a quote, it will ask the student to footnote it.


Constituent Concerns

Panel on Plagiarism

Stefanie Buck announced a timely faculty panel and discussion on plagiarism hosted by the Library entitled

“Fostering Critical Thinking:  Methods & Strategies for the Prevention of Plagiarism” to be held in Haggard Hall 232 on Wednesday April 30th from 4 to 5 p.m.


Blackboard (Bb)

Ø    Michael Meehan reported that the people who created Blackboard (Bb) have threatened lawsuits against others who provide similar services to the Bb product.  Bb was sponsored initially by the universities and was sold once it grew big. 

Ø    Meehan added that the buyers have a different attitude and “behave badly” and a lot of universities have ditched Bb because they feel the owners are acting like poor citizens in the community; there are other open source alternatives which are now used more frequently and are better, including something called “Moodle”.

Ø    ATUS plans to bring this up for discussion.

Ø    Chair Hearne submitted that he certainly preferred free open source alternatives and ditching Bb may be something will happen in the future.  He added that perhaps we should not get so vested in Bb in the first place, with its plagiarism tool.  Others concurred that Bb is “buggy” and “insecure” and “do not keep your grades on Bb, they can be broached.” 

Ø    Meehan suggested checking out some various other products on the web.



Commissioners adjourned at 4:36 pm.

Rose Marie Norton-Nader, Recorder, APRIL 15, 2008




Membership (term ending 2009)



Chair – James Hearne 2007-2008



A -  James Hearne, Computer Science, Chair (4 yr)



Vice Chair – Roger Thompson



A - Roger Anderson, Biology (SENATOR) rep to UPC






D – Mark Kuntz, Theater






E – Yvonne Durham, Economics, CBE



Dennis Murphy, Provost, nv  (K Bulcroft)    



G – Robin Matthews, Huxley



Lisa Zuzarte (Catalog Coordinator) voting



H –Marsha Riddle-Buly,  Woodring,






Membership (term ending 2008)



Registrar, Recorder, Guests



A –  Michael Meehan, Computer Science



Joe St. Hilaire, Registrar



B – Dan Boxberger, Anthro; rep to GER



Rose Marie Norton-Nader, Recorder



C -  Leonard Helfgott, History






C – Roger Thompson, History






F -  Marie Eaton, Fairhaven






I –  Stefanie Buck, Library, rep to EESP






S -  Annie Jansen, ASVP-Academics, 2007-2008






S -  Chelsea Fletcher, ASVP,  2007-2008






S -  Kristina Mader, ASVP,



Members Present



S-   Aaron Hayman



Registrar, Recorder, Guests Present






TOTAL PRESENT   April 15, 2008



Members (18)






12 faculty (2yr terms) representing each area with 2 as Senators.  6 more members include:  Provost (nv), Catalog Coordinator (ex officio) and 4 students (1 ASVP).  ACC sends reps:  to UPC and to GER Cte.  Registrar & Recorder are permanent guests