Beware, cheaters: the UTM watchdogs

All right, fellow UTM students, classes are definitely in and so are the UTM cheating police: they’re your TAs, professors, and plagiarism-detecting websites like It shouldn’t come as a surprise to most of you, but in an interview with The Toronto Star, the Canadian Council on Learning reported that “nearly three in four students in this country have cheated at least once, thanks to the cut-and-paste wizardy of the web”. And your campus is well ahead in its efforts in catching academic offenders.

According to Louise Brown, an education reporter for The Toronto Star, “a new full-time honesty watchdog began three summers ago to give instructors in all 15 departments a compulsory crash course in how to discourage, detect, and deal with everything from plagiarism to paying for papers.” Since then, in another interview with The Toronto Star, Lucy Gaspini, the UTM academic affairs officer who began the training program, reported, “Charges have more than doubled to 388 in 2009-2010 from 182 in 2006-2007.”

Your student council has joined hands with UTM in starting a campaign against those who play dirty. Some initiatives the campaign has produced have already been set in motion and some will advance throughout the year. In first-year frosh kits, students found helpful little tip-sheets on cheating, and soon you’ll also hear of plagiarism workshops on campus.

What’s more daunting is that the highest academic court of U of T, which deals with only the most severe cases, “received 38 new complaints in 2008-2009, up from 21 the year before”, according to an article in The Toronto Star. The surge of academic dishonesty is due to multiple excuses. Gaspini says that “instructors are being more vigilant…students are feeling more pressure to do really, really well…there’s real competition.” Gaspini also noted that students often “forget to cite their sources because of too many deadlines and not enough time… [due to] the pressure of part-time jobs and financial worries.”

Gaspini states that students have been caught in bizarre situations, from “a Morse code-style system of pen clicks to share answers on a multiple-choice test”, to another student who “attracted a bit too much attention by whispering questions up his sleeve, where a cellphone taped to his arm was transmitting answers from a friend off-site”, to “instructors photocopying a student’s hand as evidence of crib notes before they could be washed off.”

So remember, fellow panickes UTM students, the dangers of plagiarism are many. You have to be careful even if you’re not cheating, so no matter how tempted you may be to bring cheat-sheets with you while being escorted to the bathroom or forging letters that say you’re too sick to be conscious, or buying essays from questionable personalities, it’s not worth it. Studying and investing in your own work will not only give you an earned grade, it will give you the opportunity to become a member of a group in which everyone has really experienced the wonders of learning.

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