Deans send warning after share sites found
Last week, Wilfrid Laurier University students were notified via an email from their faculty dean that an incidence of academic misconduct had been discovered and were reminded of the stipulations of academic misconduct outlined in the Student Code of Conduct.
The incident involved two websites which contained restricted publishers’ material for bachelor of business and administration (BBA) students, and therefore infringed on copyright laws.
There were two websites in question: one a BBA Dropbox folder and the other a site called “WLU Notes” which contained folders for courses across business, arts and science faculties.
“Students actually came forward to their instructor and talked about the fact there was material that looked like it shouldn’t be circulating and they just felt uncomfortable about it,” explained Kim Morouney, associate dean of business: academic programs and associate professor at Laurier.
From there, the issue was brought to Morouney who did a quick Google search and was able to access both websites. She investigated the Dropbox and business course folders on WLU Notes and discovered test banks and some textbook material on both.
The breech of academic integrity is twofold: that publishers’ copyrighted material was available without permission and that it “represents an attempt to unfairly gain an academic advantage,” as outlined in Laurier’s Student Code of Conduct.
“I think first and foremost the issue is around that it’s publishers’ copyright material that was not supposed to be available in the form that it was made available,” Deborah MacLatchy, vice president academic and provost, said in regard to which is the more serious aspect of it.
Morouney explained that one publisher has mounted an investigation and who admitted that they try to prosecute people who have, for example, accessed material fraudulently.
“Another publisher laughed and said this happens all the time and that it’s very difficult to control,” she continued.
“My purpose in sending out the email to students was to let students know that they should think about what it is they are accessing, both because it is academic misconduct and it’s not a good way to learn,” said Morouney, referring to students using test banks to study rather than using the material they are provided with in lecture.
Both sites have since been taken down.
Neither Morouney nor MacLatchy had knowledge about how the sites were shut down. It could have been Morouney who was contacting the site servers, the publishers working from their end or the student(s) who owned the sites.
Morouney admitted they have found some names associated with files and are looking into this to see what their roles were.
“There can be serious consequences. People can be suspended, they can be expelled, people can have degrees revoked. It doesn’t even protect people to be graduated by the time this gets uncovered. But the odds of tracking these things down are, I think, a little bit low,” Morouney said.
MacLatchy explained that investigations will be left up to each of the faculties. Morouney expressed her belief that it could be a “problem that is far beyond just business.”
Mercedes Rowinsky, associate dean of student affairs and special projects, was notified about the sites, but by the time she went to investigate the arts folders on “WLU Notes” it had already been shut down. As such, she was unable to comment on whether there was academic misconduct on the part of arts students.
However, Michael Carroll, dean of the faculty of arts, claimed that arts students were not involved.
“To my knowledge, no arts students have behaved inappropriately at all,” he said.
“We were able to find out some information, but until we actually do an investigation it’s pretty hard to tell,” said MacLatchy. “As you can imagine, it does make it more challenging that the sites are down, but we’ll follow up on whatever information is available.”