A sneer is no solution

August 13, 2004

Frank Furedi's protestations about plagiarism would carry more weight if he were prepared to cite his university's policies as evidence (for or against) rather than jibing at distant institutions, including mine (Features, August 6).

Furedi's Old-Testament certainty and insistence that students come with some uniform moral/intellectual code makes fun reading and easy pointscoring. But he doesn't take the risk of saying where we should go from here - much easier to sneer than prescribe.

Like most academics, I'm cynical about what my bosses get up to, but I've been impressed by the way my university has introduced procedures to avoid plagiarism. Students are in no doubt that we are talking about right and wrong, the forensic investigation is robust and the prescriptions provide both retribution and the opportunity for redemption. But we don't live in a cosy pre-1985 world where almost all undergraduates are well-qualified middle-class Brits with shared understandings of society and how to get on in it and where it's OK to smite the odd bounder.

The consequences - emotional, financial and social - of smiting most of our students are severe indeed and you have to take great care before you act.

Maybe it's different where Frank lives?

Chris Rust
Professor of design
Sheffield Hallam University

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