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Plagiarism conviction stemming from a group project for an international marketing course.

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One for All and All for One?82 Melinda Asbel watched as three of her classmates filed out of the conference room. Then she turned back to the large wooden table and faced her fellow members (a student and three faculty members) of the university’s judiciary committee. The three students—Joe Eastridge, Brad Hamil, and Lisa Baghetti—had just concluded their appeal against a plagiarism conviction stemming from a group project for an international marketing course. Melinda, who happened to be in the class with the students on trial, remembered the day that the professor, Ha...

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One for All and All for One?82 Melinda Asbel watched as three of her classmates filed out of the conference room. Then she turned back to the large wooden table and faced her fellow members (a student and three faculty members) of the university’s judiciary committee. The three students—Joe Eastridge, Brad Hamil, and Lisa Baghetti—had just concluded their appeal against a plagiarism conviction stemming from a group project for an international marketing course. Melinda, who happened to be in the class with the students on trial, remembered the day that the professor, Hank Zierden, had asked Joe, Brad, and Lisa, along with the group’s leader, Paul Colgan, to stay after class. She happened to walk by the classroom a half hour later to see four glum students emerge. Even though Paul had a chagrined expression on his face, Joe was the one who looked completely shattered. It didn’t take long for word to spread along the ever-active grapevine that Paul had admitted to plagiarizing his part of the group paper. At the hearing, the students recounted how they’d quickly and unanimously settled on Paul to lead the group. He was by far the most able student among them, someone who managed to maintain a stellar GPA even while handling a full course load and holding down a part-time job. After the group worked together for weeks analyzing the problem and devising a marketing plan, Paul assigned a section of the final paper to each member. With the pressure of all those end-of-the-semester deadlines bearing down on them, everyone was delighted when Paul volunteered to write the company and industry background, the section that typically took the most time to produce. Paul gathered in everyone’s contributions, assembled them into a paper, and handed the final draft to the other members. They each gave it a quick read. They liked what they saw and thought they had a good chance for an A. Unfortunately, as Paul readily admitted when Professor Zierden confronted them, he had pulled the section that he’d contributed directly off the Internet. Pointing out the written policy that he had distributed at the beginning of the semester, which stated that each group member was equally responsible for the final product, the professor gave all four students a zero for the project. The group project and presentation counted for 30 percent of the course grade. Joe, Brad, and Lisa maintained that they were completely unaware that Paul had cheated. “It just never occurred to us Paul would ever need to cheat,” Brad said. They were innocent bystanders, the students argued. Why should they be penalized? Besides, the consequences weren’t going to fall on each of them equally. Although Paul was suffering the embarrassment of public exposure, the failing group project grade would only put a dent in his solid GPA. Joe, on the other hand, was already on academic probation. A zero probably meant he wouldn’t make the 2.5 GPA that he needed to stay in the business program. At least one of the faculty members of the judiciary committee supported Professor Zierden’s actions. “We’re assigning more and more group projects because increasingly that’s the way these students are going to find themselves working when they get real jobs in the real world,” he said. “And the fact of the matter is that if someone obtains information illegally while on the job, it’s going to put the whole corporation at risk for being sued, or worse.” Even though she could see merit to both sides, Melinda was going to have to choose. If you were Melinda, how would you vote? What Would You Do? 1. Vote to exonerate the three group project members who didn’t cheat. You’re convinced that they had no reason to suspect Paul Colgan of dishonesty. Exonerating them is the right thing to do. 2. Vote in support of Hank Zierden’s decision to hold each individual member accountable for the entire project. The professor clearly stated his policy at the beginning of the semester, and the students should have been more vigilant. The committee should not u ndercut a professor’s explicit policy. 3. Vote to reduce each of the three students’ penalties. Instead of a zero, each student will receive only half of the possible total points for the project, which would be an F. You’re still holding students responsible for the group project, but not imposing catastrophic punishment. This compromise both undercuts the professor’s policy and punishes “innocent” team members to some extent, but not as severely.

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Currently all members of a team are being held responsible for the plagiarism done by one member of the group, and are receiving a 0 on a paper that represents 30% of their grade.

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