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Editorial

Turnitin implies a lack of trust

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September 21, 2007

Why do honest students pay, literally and figuratively, for the actions of dishonest minority?

This will be the fourth semester the UW-River Falls faculty will have the services of a tool aimed at raising the bar for academic honesty. But besides the $6,000-per-semester price tag of Turnitin, the price being paid is on the psyche of students forced to use the plagiarism deterrent and even in the relationship between students and their professors.

It’s understandable that professors should want to take advantage of a tool like Turnitin, but like any new tool or device created by mankind, the total repercussions of it usually aren’t fully thought out or realized until some damage has already been done. One problem Turnitin poses for students: it deters the creative writing process. While professors who use Turnitin may rest easy knowing that every paper will be cross-referenced against a seemingly endless data- base of written material, catching even the slightest plagiaristic gaffe, students can become unnerved because of that exact reason. Students using Turnitin will ask themselves if some of their original work might be flagged because someone else had the same thought they did. When writing, a person’s first though shouldn’t be ‘I should make this sound unique because if I don’t Turnitin might flag it.’ While it is easy to see why professors would want to save them- selves from taking the time to check for plagiarism, they should ask themselves if it’s really worth it, especially if it hinders honest students from doing the best work they can because they’re terrified what they write might match the work of one of the billions of pieces of literature that Turnitin cross references their paper with.

But the main problem caused by the use of Turnitin is the breakdown in trust between professors and stu- dents. College is supposed to be a place were young people are supposed to transition into adulthood. To act like an adult one needs to be treated like an adult. How can students do that when they are treated like criminals who can’t even be trusted to write a legitimate paper? A lack of trust also has a reciprocating effect. When people don’t trust someone else they in turn are saying you shouldn’t trust them. In an ideal learning environment at least some level of trust is necessary. Hopefully the level of trust between stu- dents and faculty won’t ever deteriorate beyond the level of repair.