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Syllabi notes on plagarism and informing instructors about special needs

Every semester we see students run into problems by plagiarizing the work of others or failing to tell their professors about a disability that affects their class performance. While there is no foolproof way to prevent these situations, here are suggestions on what you might do to make it clearer.

On your syllabus, include a short warning or notice patterned after the following two comments. Adapt them as you feel appropriate (the content from public sources as noted in the URLs). In addition to placing information on the syllabus, it is also good to point it out and read it to them on the first day of class and on other occasions when a major assignment is due. This allows everyone to receive advance notice of these policies.

Avoid Plagiarism:

Plagiarism is a serious offense. All sources and assistance used in preparing your papers must be precisely and explicitly acknowledged. If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please read the following information http://www.wisc.edu/students/saja/misconduct/UWS14.html#points or come talk with me. Ignorance of what constitutes plagiarism is not a defense. It is your responsibility to be sure. The web creates special risks. Cutting and pasting even a few words from a web page or paraphrasing material without a reference constitutes plagiarism. If you are not sure how to refer to something you find on the internet, you can always give the URL. It is generally better to quote than to paraphrase from material on the web, because in the absence of page numbers it can be hard to find passages that are paraphrased rather than quoted. For more information on writing and source citation, the following may be helpful www.wisc.edu/writing/Handbook/Acknowledging_Sources.pdf.

Help Students with a Disability Help Themselves:

Students are instructed to inform instructors early on if they need accommodations, preferably no later than the third week of classes. You can help by including on your syllabus a statement to the effect that “Anyone needing disability-related accommodations should see me as soon as possible to discuss their needs.” If a student requests testing accommodations the day before an exam you can ask them why they are waiting to the last minute. Short of a phenomenally good reason, we suggest you inform them that you are happy to work with them on accommodations, but that it requires advance planning and negotiation. If they do not have a VISA, refer them to McBurney Disability Resource Center, if they do have a VISA, suggest they meet with you at a mutually convenient time to make arrangements for future exams. Ultimately, we cannot deny a student from making a request, even at the last minute. However, we can deny providing an accommodation if the request is unreasonable or an undue burden. Last minute requests may be unreasonable or cause an undue burden. www.oed.wisc.edu/tapaa.html

Robert O. Ray, Ph.D.
Associate Dean and Professor
Undergraduate Programs and Services

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