Academic misconduct claim part of much larger problem

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Last week, students received an email regarding an academic misconduct issue. The email explained that the Office had discovered large amounts of textbook information on a website for student use and sharing. There were two main sources of concern – a dropbox account open to students and a note sharing site. The dropbox account was open to business students and included illegally published copyrighted material that was available to all students. The website was shutdown but had focused on sharing notes, not copyrighted material.

One publisher is investigating the issue and all faculties are encouraged to remind students that this is unacceptable. The issue that goes unaddressed in the email is the price of textbook prices, which spark these types of student initiatives looking to lessen the collective burden on students. If textbooks were more reasonably priced or students saw the value in them, this form of academic misconduct would be less appealing.

Beyond that, if the university acted like it was trying to reduce prices and was acting in student’s interest there could be a possible perception change on campus in which students would view the university with more credibility on the textbook issue. It is hard to crack down on students when students are under the impression, fairly or not, that the university is doing nothing to reduce textbook prices and is part of the problem rather than the solution.

An unfortunate casualty of the university crackdown is the note sharing website that shut down amongst a growing concern of potential publisher lawsuits and university punishment.  A note sharing website is legal, shares student material across faculties and is available to all students. Just like the dropbox account was available to business students, the website was available to students across the board and thus neither qualified as giving certain students an advantage.

Referring to these instances, specifically the note sharing website, as academic misconduct is somewhat misleading. Copyright infringement is illegal and is understandably frowned upon by the university. However, note sharing and the promotion of collective student success should be encouraged.

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