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NYU Prof Vows Never to Probe Cheating Again—and Faces a Backlash (chronicle.com)
195 points by ilamont on July 22, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 110 comments

This reminds me of a case in Europe, where a PhD chemist was found to have faked/fabricated large parts of his graduate work, including his thesis. (It was on Derek Lowe's blog, pipeline.corante.com, and other places). He used Switzerland's ridiculous privacy laws to C&D journals, papers not to disclose his name in connection with the university investigation. (Or something like that, I'm not a lawyer). So he got off scot-free, and now he works in investment banking.

edit: Here's the story





"Switzerland's ridiculous privacy laws"

You mean those "ridiculous" kind of laws where peoples privacy is protected against media-exploitation during that equally ridiculous "presumption of innocence" bit that is part of due process?

Those silly Swiss, not to allow mere allegations to destroy peoples lives. Way better to humiliate people by parading them in front of the world press, and make sure their careers are destroyed without having to bother with silly stuff like facts and evidence, the way they do things in the US.

This has nothing to due with due process if the the fraudster is forever permitted to C&D anyone who mentions his name.

+1 to parent.

Grandparent needs to read more.

"and now he works in investment banking."

That's one hell of a punchline. Is that serious, or is that just a grim joke? Because sadly it's right smack in the middle of Poe's Law territory.

No, it's extremely funny but it's true.

The Ph.D. student at the time left research after receiving his degree and now works as an analyst for an international bank.


The Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger reports that the doctoral student has left chemical research to become a financial analyst with the bank UBS. C&EN was unable to reach the former student at press time.


> So he got off scot-free, and now he works in investment banking.

That makes absolutely sense.

So no one knows his name? What about newspapers outside Switzerland?

> this person's lab notebooks have turned up missing, and are the only primary sources for the whole affair that can't be found

Not to condone what he did, but this is one of the reasons I don't keep any physical lab notebooks (scan, encrypt, and shred). Don't want people accessing/confiscating them without my consent.

This is ridiculous.

1. The C&D letter came from "a faculty member at another institution." It could have come from me, or from a guy at the coffee shop down the block. A letter from a faculty member at another institution has about as much weight--considering that he has no claim in the supposed privacy of the material--as the paper it's printed on. NYU should grow a backbone and tell him to pound sand. If that's all it takes for them to turn tail, I wouldn't take their policies on academic freedom very seriously.

2. I'm guessing that the ever-so-helpful faculty member from another institution sent some sort of warning regarding FERPA, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, which generally governs how academic institutions must handle student records. This act has been interpreted in such odd ways that there was a Supreme Court case over whether allowing students in elementary school to grade each other's homework was a violation of federal law (Owasso v. Falvo).

My understanding is that FERPA generally applies only to student records with some sort of personally identifiable information on them (i.e., posting grades with ID numbers, publishing contact info on the internet without permission, etc.). If I couldn't possibly identify the student from the portion of the email quoted, it's hard to understand how FERPA could rationally apply. If it were applicable, then any single quotation of any size from any communication with a student would be potentially banned from being repeated. Otherwse, it would be a violation of federal law for a professor to post a sentence of the sort: "A student asked me a very intriguing question today, which went as follows..."

3. If NYU or the professor just don't want the hassle of being at the center of a public debate, then fine. They are free to say or to not say whatever they like. But to scurry away from a debate and blame it on some imagined violation of a student "right" (see Gonzaga v. Doe for how far that "right" goes) is just silly.

Again, instead of trying to some how address the genuine issues raised by the original blog post, people are going to create unnecessary controversy around it till the issue is forgotten. People can't see the forest for the trees. The main issue is that there is rampant cheating going on in the educational institutions. That's where the focus of the universities should be not on issuing these cease and desist letters.

Agreed. I had the same reaction. The guy outs the problem and the blatant use of cheating by his students and all he gets in return is a kick in the teeth by doing so.

I'm glad I never stayed in academia.

So my question is, what if TurnItIn quoted a student's paper instead of the teacher quoting an email?

I ask because these university's are effectively giving these student's papers to TurnItIn to use and make a profit on however they please. The students have no say in the matter, and that doesn't seem to be very protective of their privacy.

Yes! I've been trying to tell people this since high school almost 10 years ago. Many educators force students to submit their papres to Turnitin or else take a failing grade on the assignment (which is often a final project which can cause you to fail the course).

1. Turnitin cites fair use ("it's educational"), but one of the metrics of fair use is the extent of use (they use the whole thing), if it's used for profit (they are), and the affect of merchantability. As shady as it sounds, paper mills are not illegal, copyright infringement is. If a paper mill rejects your paper because it's been through turnitin, that hurts me as an author.

2. Another aspect of the monetization that really grinds my gears is that every paper I am forced to submit benefits turnitin by making their database larger and thus helping grant them a monopoly in this market. I am being forced to write articles for the monetary benefit of a company. If they're making money off my paper I want a cut.

3. Turnitin does not offer any way to remove one's documents from their database. If it was merely being used temporarily to compare for plagiarism against internet or book sources then that'd be reasonable. But they keep my papers forever and will continue to monetize them for years after the fact.

I understand the plight of educators that want to stop plagiarism, but forcing me to irrevocably offer royalty-free licenses for my work to a for-profit company that is then charging the school (which if it is public is being funded by my tax dollars) is just insane any way you slice it.

Unfortunately the courts sided with Turnitin on this issue back in 2007 and 2009 and somehow ruled that their for-profit use was fair use.

If they're making money off my paper I want a cut.

They don't make any money by distributing your work. Nor does the quality of your work in any way affect how they make money off of it. I can't know if this is technically a violation of copyright, but -- it doesn't seem like it is against the spirit of copyright. Anymore than the requirement that you give a copy to your professor to grade.

I understand the plight of educators that want to stop plagiarism, but forcing me to irrevocably offer royalty-free licenses for my work to a for-profit company that is then charging the school (which if it is public is being funded by my tax dollars) is just insane any way you slice it.

I could be misunderstanding the situation, but from your own post you are granting no such license -- they are legally allowed to archive these. Copyright applies when you make and distribute a copy of the work, and they aren't (that I know of) doing any such thing.

(Disclaimer: I don't know anything about turnitin, so I'm not defending them in particular -- just responding to the objections of their model raised by OP.)

you are granting no such license

Yeah, that's the dirty trick. Turnitin hides behind the fact that your professors are the ones that force you to use it, and to use Turnitin you have to register and agree to their terms, which includes letting them use and keep your stuff.

So in reality half the battle is trying to persuade you professor to respect your copyright. I don't mind granting my professor a temporary license to evaluate my work, but I don't wish to give him permission to turn around and give a copy to someone else.

In the court case surrounding this issue the judge basically ruled along the lines of "minors in school don't have rights anyway so this is a moot point", but in university this probably a more legally viable issue.

>I don't mind granting my professor a temporary license to evaluate my work

That's a weird thing to say, and I'm not sure you understand when a license is and is not needed.

If you write an essay and hand me a physical copy, I can then do whatever I want with that copy. I can read it, I can shred it, I can put it in a filing cabinet to gather dust for 20 years.[1] I can even give, sell, or lend it to a friend! I can do all this without needing any special license, because I own the copy you have given me.

What copyright prevents is me photocopying, scanning, or even laboriously hand copying it, and then passing those copies to other people. But while you own the IP, I own the physical copy.

With digital works, the rules are a little different -- if you e-mail me a PDF, sending it to someone else would count as creating a copy, and I'd need your license to do so. But the essential fact is I don't need a special license to hold on to a copy of it. And if you give me permission to send it to someone else, once they have it they can hang onto it as well.

[1] Universities will of course have policies on how faculty handle student work, but that's an orthogonal issue to that of copyright.

I'm sure you are familiar with non-disclosure agreements. Those, and many other, possibly implicit, agreements severely limit what you may do with your 'physical copy'. 'Owning' the copy in no way entitles you to do with it whatever you want. Even telling others you own the copy is something that is easy to forbid.

I was taking issue of the OPs use of the word "license." A license grants you additional rights you would not otherwise possess.

If I'm discussing what actions are, by default, allowed -- well, it isn't very useful to tag a clause onto every statement saying "Unless a legal contract/agreement prevents you from doing otherwise."

That's taken as understood, and only worth mentioning if it is a right or freedom you can't sign away.

Edit: note that I wrote this from my Euro-centric point of view. Here universities are heavily subsidied and Ph.D. students are employees of the university.

No such license is needed. With enrollment in an educational facility, you sign over all rights on required course work to said facility. It's not your work, as little as work you do as an employee is your work: your employer owns all rights.

That is true of work done in University research labs, but course work, where you are paying to be there, not so much. Especially in undergrad and masters programs where students are less likely to work for the university.

That's not true. In my jurisdiction it is not even possible for a juristic person (i.e. company) to own any copyright whatsoever. Only a physical person can be a copyright owner here. So I do own the copyright of everything I do for my employer and certainly for anything I ever wrote or otherwise created in school.

Then the employee must have granted the employer a complete and exclusive right to use the copyrighted produces. There is not other solution: otherwise you can extort your company by threatening to leave and revoke all their rights to use your work of the past years. Many types of companies are near impossible without exclusive rights to the fruit of their employees' labour.

This is why in for instance The Netherlands, in every contract, an employer will by default demand all the rights related to work you do in your spare time, if it is related to your profession. And this makes complete sense: in the past, there have been problems with people that loved their job, did some work in the evenings for purely job-related stuff, became disgruntled later and successfully sued to the company for infringement.

That's not actually a universal fact. It's not uncommon to have someone publish a work that was initially submitted as an assignment so and there are university's that don't claim the copywrite on the work.

Oh get real.

The university has the right to ask you to submit your work however they want as a condition to course completion. If you don't want to submit your work to turnitin you don't have to complete the course. Nobody's forcing you to.

If the extent of your objection is that turnitin robs you of potential financial benefit of selling your work, then that's by design: that's exactly what the educational institution wants to do! It doesn't matter that selling your work to a paper mill is legal. It's against the interests of the institution, so they're not going to let you go through their programme and keep that right.

The university has the right to ask you to submit your work however they want as a condition to course completion. If you don't want to submit your work to turnitin you don't have to complete the course. Nobody's forcing you to.

And what about a required course in high school?

Sounds illegal under child labor laws, but IANAL

A thought experiment: in the USA, a minor's assets belong to the parents, right? So, ipso facto, the parent holds the copyright. What if the parent refuses to allow a copy to go to Turnitin?

Further, minors cannot enter into contracts. Would Turnitin's license agreement be a contract, and hence void since one of the parties was a minor?

> If the extent of your objection is that turnitin robs you of potential financial benefit of selling your work, then that's by design: that's exactly what the educational institution wants to do!

I know of no university that explicitly prohibits students from selling papers to paper mills (although I haven't checked). Prohibiting students from using papers from paper mills is a different thing entirely.

Seriously? I am 100% certain that selling papers for other students to use would have violated my university honor code. I would be surprised if there are any schools where that isn't the case.

Aiding cheating is against the honor code, however no one is going to say "sell me your paper so I may turn it in for a grade against the code".

Rather they'd say they want your paper so they can see your thoughts. That's fair because they could get the same effect from merely talking to you about your paper.

Or they'd say that its okay to use outside sources (such as your paper) so long as they cite it. This is also true in many cases.

And if they want your paper so they can "see your thoughts" (and pay you for the privilege!?), what's wrong with that paper also being entered into Turn It In? After all, you surely don't think they were lying about their intentions. Because if you suspect they are lying about their intentions, then aren't you aiding cheating?

Because in the future, you may want to sell that same paper to students after you've graduated.

In that case, you're not breaking any honor code although you're aiding others in being dishonorable to their own codes.

Well, actually you are still breaking the honor code even after you're graduated. Though the school would probably have little recourse against you in practice.

At least in my CSE program, you are not allowed to give anyone else the answers in any form. That includes talking about how you solved an assignment and it certainly includes sharing solutions for any purpose.

So then textbook and study guide authors are violating your schools honor code? Just because I took the time to increase the value of my study guide by specializing it for CS101 at UT, doesn't mean that I sold my guide for the express purpose of some idiot getting out of doing the work themselves.

I know I wouldn't risk selling a study guide that had anything in the same ballpark as answers to assignments.

Thanks to a quick google, here's my old student handbook: "Selling academic assignments. No person shall sell or offer for sale to any person enrolled at the University at Buffalo any academic assignment, or any inappropriate assistance in the preparation, research, or writing of any assignment, which the seller knows, or has reason to believe, is intended for submission in fulfillment of any course or academic program requirement."

eli's comment (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2793351) prompted me to go and explicitly check my university's academic honour code, which does explicitly include language about selling assignments. While I maintain that there's a difference between selling a paper—i.e., your answers to an assignment—and selling the assignment yourself, I also concede that it's a hair-splitting one.

It looks like my understanding of the honour code is therefore definitely false for my university, and, from the evidence, probably for many others. (This is particularly embarrassing because I was part of the group that approved the final version of the code!)

On paper, universities disallow helping others cheat. In reality, it doesn't seem to be enforced.

If the helper student has already passed the class, the professor can't take disciplinary action against them without making a major case about it. It's easy to simply fail the cheating student or give them a zero on the assignment without making a record.

Additionally, if it is brought to a committee, it'd be much harder to prove.

So although it's officially not allowed, there's not much universities are doing to combat the providers.

I know at least my university does.

More information on this unfortunate precedent-setting litigation is available on Turnitin's Wikipedia entry. I was very much dismayed but not entirely surprised by the rulings.

So, when you copy somebody else's work (e.g. a song) for personal enjoyment, it's an outrageous crime; but when you copy a student's essay for profit, it's fair use. You're right, it's not at all surprising.

When has Turnitin ever copied the essay? They just received a copy and stored it, but never made one themselves.

By that logic, me e-mailing you a Lady Gaga MP3 is not copyright infringement.

But I'll bet I could find a gaggle of lawyers willing to take you up on that.

It's copyright infringement by you, the person who made and sent a copy, not by me who just received it. If you look at the lawsuits, they're all convicted because they uploaded, not because they downloaded.

No such thing follows from icebraining's logic.[1]

If you think otherwise, lay out explicitly how you think the two cases are similar.

[1]Err, unless you are Lady Gaga.

You never made a copy of the MP3 yourself — you just received one and stored it. Ditto for people who receive copies from MegaUpload.

Has anyone ever been convicted for just downloading MP3s?

Besides, there's obviously a difference between receiving a random essay from a person who claims to own the rights (that's obviously in their TOS), and asking to download an MP3 of some band. In the latter case, the downloader obviously knows the copy is illegal and it can be argued that (s)he's abetting the infringer.

I couldn't have worded it better myself :)

You can find that here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turnitin#Controversy

Turnitin has always been a concern of mine; not just the copyright/fair-use conundrum, but the privacy issues too.

I would add:

4. Privacy. Submitting a paper to Turnitin makes the student's work vulnerable to a breach of Turnitin's servers. Data breaches have become so common that it is probably more accurate to say when Turnitin's servers are breached rather than if they are breached, the student's work could be made public contrary to their wishes.

I am grateful that my professors did not use Turnitin. Some at my school did, but I simply didn't take their classes. Had one of my professors announced they were using Turnitin, I would have dropped the class.

If you suspect me of cheating, talk to me. Put me to any test you like. Have me write my papers in front of you and defend them in an in-person interview. I don't care, just don't ask me to give my papers to Turnitin, because I won't. I don't like them, I don't agree with what they're doing, and I don't trust their ability to secure their servers. Further, I find the idea offensive that I need to prove my innocence when there is no evidence to indicate my guilt.

Universities typically have all rights to their students' papers. I'm not sure that I'd expect privacy for college essays either, although it's a bit odd that you are technically not usually allowed to, say, post them to your blog.

Do you have any sources for the claim that universities typically have all rights to a student's papers? I can say for certain that I never signed any intellectual property agreement with the university I attended and would expect to retain all rights to any work I completed there as a student. The work I created did have an implied license allowing for grading the papers and such, but any use beyond that would upset me unless I the university had obtained my permission.

From some random Googling: Duke University does not claim any rights, unless more-than-normal assistance was given (http://www.du.edu/intellectualproperty/iprop.html); Coventry does claim all rights (http://wwwm.coventry.ac.uk/ipr/students/Pages/FAQstudents.as...); Waterloo does not (http://secretariat.uwaterloo.ca/Policies/policy73.htm); Leeds does (http://www.leeds.ac.uk/research/hbook/ipr3.htm); Glasgow does not (http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/datamanagement/creatingyourdat...). Etc. My old university (Utrecht) did claim all rights. (Note that, where appropriate, I have considered undergraduates; PhD students are typically staff, with the attendant work-for-hire provisions.)

Still, it seems that I should amend my statement to "Universities often have..."

(Note that this is based on a very quick skimming, and IANAL.)

Not sure on what's typical, but my University uses a "you get to keep your IP" as a selling point; so presumably there must be enough of other institutions where this is not the case. UMissouri's attempt to claim royalties for student's in-class developed iPhone app (although later backing down and changing policies) is an interesting example of the other extreme.

There was a bit of backlash when the Australian university I attended started using TurnItIn for this very reason.

There was also a dubious clause in the T&C that stated something along the lines of "Copyright protection for Australian documents does not apply as TurnItIn stores all of the documents on servers in the U.S"

Well, since the students wouldn't provide their papers at a price TurnItIn found reasonable, TurnItIn is within their rights to just take them. Or something like that. I'm not sure if papers and movies are directly comparable.

The work of a student is the property of the university, like the work of an employee is the property of the employer. It's the university that (temporarily, before transferring it) owns the copyright on the paper the Ph.D. submitted. Not the Ph.D.

An employee's labor is purchased by the employer. A student in a university is not paid to attend a university however; the contrary is true. A student has far more claim on the works of professors than vice-versa.

Hmmm, yes, I'm describing how it is in Europe, where higher education is heavily subsidied by the government and where Ph.D. students are employees of the university.

Not in Austria (last time I checked this is in Europe). http://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=Bundesn...

Usually contractual agreements between an individual and a company, such as a university, can override the default rights granted by law. You can always sign away your rights, so we would at least need to know the default clauses in employee and university-enrollment contracts.

From the vice dean of faculty, quoted in the article:

> Stern faculty members are obligated to support the University and Stern honor codes and are never sanctioned in any way for doing so.

Ha! Nothing wrong with that, except that I thought he meant "faculty members who are stern". Here's the interesting bit:

> Moreover, the course evaluation input of any student who has an honor code infraction is removed from consideration when evaluating teaching performance.

How in the world can you do that, when student evaluations are anonymous? (Maybe they've switched to online evaluations, which would allow this while preserving anonymity.)

This also doesn't take into account the impact that being stricter on cheating had on the non-cheating members of the class.

> How in the world can you do that, when student evaluations are anonymous?

I understand that those students simply don't get to fill in evaluations.

Comments from someone claiming to be Prof. Panos Ipeirotis and attempting to clarify some points.


This prevents them from effectively getting into a law school, or being hired by an investment bank.

My guess is that this is bullshit. I work at an investment bank and I've never given anyone any official transcripts.

Some banks do demand transcripts for fresh grads, as do a number of consulting firms.

But are you a trader or a quant? I think they were only talking about traders/analysts.

It seems to me the best solution would be to have a few student workers at the university that are the plagiarism "police". They would review the TurnItIn reports for all student papers and refer offenders to honor boards for punishment.

This would leave the professor free to teach and not have to a) spend time policing the student and b) be seen as the bad guy when students get caught and punished.


There should be an automatic filter, with manual review of violations, that all papers are submitted through. If it fails the filter, it's returned to the student, and the professor hasn't even seen it. The student can redo it, or protest the automated decision, and a human reviewer (an anonymous TA on-campuse) can consider the case (and see the offending text). The reviewer would then pass it on to the professor, who can grade it, or return it to the student to improve.

This removes the burden and the penalty from the professor, whose job isn't supposed to be policing plagiarism infractions.

Earlier HN discussion, before the blog post was deleted:


And previous discussion of the post removal: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2784002

I think we all saw this coming. Reading his blog post I had that weird feeling of, "How is he actually writing this?" I guess it was cathartic for him but of course NYU would want it taken down.

Shocking, absolutely shocking to read that MBA students would engage in such behavior. One might imagine, with great difficulty of course, that their sole purpose in entering business school was the pursuit of personal and financial gain by any means.

“We are also trying to satisfy ourselves that Stern graduates know what they are talking about when they represent themselves to practitioners and in the world of stiff competition with graduates of other top schools.”

Wait... is he actually admitting here that NYU wants the post removed because it reveals that >1/5 of its grads are cheaters?

I take it your school did not have a critical reasoning requirement and/or you cheated in class. The post stated that in one class 1/5 of the students had cheated.

Even if we pretend that one introductory class is a representative sample of the current enrolled student body you still can not jump from enrolled to graduated. It is entirely possible that a lot of the people who cheat in a 101 level class do not make it to graduation.

Please refrain from making silly posts in the future.

To me, the stance that this professor is taking is absurd. He's not helping anyone but himself giving up on efforts to prevent cheating.

I really thought he would have made a compelling argument to resolve this, but it seems more like he's become so frustrated with cheating that he's resigned himself from that aspect of education.

With that said, I do disagree with the stance that universities take on cheating. The system of punishment is too focused on catching cheaters and punishing them so harshly as scare others to never consider it. I think this prevents many students from being more creative or exploring their own ideas based on previous work.

I believe cheating is not something a student commits because of inability, cheating is a crime of laziness. Therefore, rather than trying to catch cheating, schools should just making cheating pointless. Papers and assigments should be completely open and encourage students to look at any previous work and allow them to include it in their own work simply with a citation.

To add, professors seem to focused on their students finding credible sources to cite rather than allowing students to form their own ideas. Credible ideas can be founded from less credible sources and that is what should really matter.

As stated, the professor is preventing cheating by modifying the nature of the assignments.

"We are teaching the next generation of business leaders, and it is important that they think about the consequences of their actions,"

Exactly. You're not just there to learn the course material. Maybe cheaters don't even know what they're doing is wrong, and by ignoring it you're doing them a disservice.

Regarding the "poisoned class environment" issue, it seems like there's a better way to go about it discretely.

1. Include your plagiarism policy clearly on the course syllabus. Be clear about what constitutes plagiarism, how they should cite passages taken from other material, etc.

2. Don't tell students you're using Turnitin, just have them submit papers electronically somehow and run the papers through Turnitin yourself.

3. The first time you catch someone plagiarizing give them a zero on the paper (depending on the severity) and tell them if it happens again they'll be kicked out of the class (or whatever your university's policy is)

The problem this particular teacher ran into was that kicking someone out of a class for plagarism / reporting to the university (as per the policy) is a big process, not just a print screen of Turnitin's report...

That means that the teacher is spending hours and hours and hours on cheating...

I wonder why Marc Parry chose to call him "Mr." instead of the correct "Dr."... a total of 12 whole times.

Funny story - during my stint in Grad School there was some sensitivity to how each person wanted to be referred to.

All Post-Docs insisted on being called "Dr." rather than "Mr."and all tenured Profs on being called "Prof." rather than "Dr."

Non-tenured Assistant Profs had the worst choice get called Dr. and upset themselves or get called "Prof." and potentially upset the people who could grant them tenure :) Guess which one they choose?

In certain geographic and/or certain academic circles leaving out the 'dr' is, depending on how you look at it, a newish kind of snobbery or a recognition that getting the PhD isn't all that much of an accomplishment. Not putting emphasis on the 'dr' part is like saying 'of course everybody who matters has a PhD, no need to mention it every time'.

It's the same reasoning as why one wouldn't list a driving license as an accomplishment when one is a professional race car driver - 'of course' everybody who is somebody in racing has passed their driving exam a long time ago.

(the same comment was mentioned in the comments to the OP - I was quite surprised nobody mentioned my above reasoning, I thought it was common knowledge by now).

"Mister" is correct for any adult male. They may prefer the more exclusive title, but that's no more obligatory than my preference to be addressed as "Captain Awesome." And some style manuals (including the Associated Press Stylebook) actually forbid "Dr." unless the story is about medicine and the person in question is an MD.

People with Ph.D.s are not that frequently called Dr. Also, if there is one source that I am pretty sure would know how to refer to professors and Ph.D.s, it would be the Chronicle of Higher Education.

That being said, it's also uncommon to specifically use Mr. (except for male surgeons, of course) - not unknown, but uncommon. I'd have less of a problem if the article was about, say, his dog having a funny coat pattern or him complaining about parking restrictions at the local council, but it is weird that in an article about his professional conduct and capacity, that the lesser title should be used.

Mr. is still not the correct formal title for someone with a PhD, Dr. is. The only exception of this is when dealing with patients in a medical setting where the degree could be confused with an MD. (I'm still having flashbacks to addressing wedding invitations 7 years after the fact).

Chronicles of higher education might have a different publishing standard, but I'm not sure why they would.


This wikipedia entry seems to indicate that it is common to address someone of his stature as "Dr.", with the possible exception of perhaps in social settings where doing so might cause confusion (with MD).

Funny, people call me and my colleagues "doctor" all the time...

I guess the only logical policy for a professor is "don't ask, don't tell, don't talk about it".

You there, academic! Back into the closet!

That's pretty much how it is. My wife teaches in a NYC public school and has a big issue with plagiarism, although there she can report it all she wants and no one would do anything. Additionally if she tried to assign homework like this professor suggest they would not do it. They would simply take a zero then to have to do a presentation. And then it becomes an issue where the students fail and the teachers passing average drops severely.

I had the experience of getting my graduate degree from an undergraduate institution with a strict honor code, and my graduate degree from a school without an honor code.

Under the honor code, a student caught cheating would, at minimum, fail the course, and at maximum, be expelled.

At the other school (theoretically more prestigious), the typical sanction for cheating was to receive an "F" on the suspect assignment.

Not surprisingly, in my experience, cheating was far, far more common at the second university than at the first ...

And of course NYU does nothing to back him up. The spirit of openness and intellectual honesty that universities should be promoting falls by the wayside when it involves a little risk and a little conflict. He did some real research into an interesting and relevant topic, and got the shaft from the university because it uncovered uncomfortable truths.

I'd put this on with the sex class incident a few months ago at Northwestern as far as disappointing moves by institutions I'd like to respect.

If cheating one's way out of doing real work is so pervasive in the institutions training our political and business leaders, i guess the current cirsis situation is not very surprising. What kind of people would you expect at the top of a system that encourages cheating vs doing your homework ?

I need to check my web cache. I have no problems hosting a copy of the essay.

I can certainly see why NYU wouldn't want to defend a professor who quoted a student's email without permission.

Since when can you not anonymously quote part of an email that was sent to you?

When you've got some kind of duty [in the legal sense] towards the person sending the mail. For example a doctor quoting a patient's email would be problematic. Just to be clear, I don't know the law in this area and I'm not saying what he did was illegal (I have no idea), I'm just saying that I can certainly see why NYU wouldn't want to step up to defend him on this issue if something came up.

I'm not sure how you can consider doctor/patient and professor/cheating student the same type of relationship. Hell, this was a 100-level class; it's surprising it even had a professor.

I'm not saying it's the same kind of relationship. But educational institutions and professors certainly have some duties to students.

The student admitted that the whole email was total BS. I took excerpts of the email and posted them here, not the full message.

Come on, could you really believe that this email contained a single element of truth?

Aside: I saw a geek news bit about you withdrawing (removing) your post and the heat you're getting.

Dude, I'm so sorry.

For future, I have two bits of advice.

#1 Don't bury the lead. Like myself, the geek news bit also didn't get the point of your post.

#2 Focus on the positive. Meaning that all negatives can be stated as a positive.

So, were I to have written your blog post, I would have lead with your "future" section (peer reviews, competitions, contemporary projects), enthused about all the positives, and underplayed (or flat out omitted) the back story, the bullshit plagiarism software, the complicity of the administration (shocker!), the cheating students, etc.

I definitely would not have responded directly to any personal criticism, especially not in public. That's always a trap.

In conclusion, I think you did the right thing, are on the right track, and got burned by being the internet's chew toy of the moment. Lesson learned, move on.

Yes, in retrospect, we can easily agree that you are correct.

I will just give here the answer that I posted in another thread http://hackerne.ws/item?id=2797371

the post was supposed to be "a story with the twist." Had I known that I was going to have hundreds of thousands of people reading the post, I would have followed the standard journalistic practice of writing a summary at the very first section. (See http://t.co/2kJEkJW for a copy of the post. Note: I asked the post to be taken down until I repost the original article but the journalist is really playing childish games.)

I kind of felt this a few hours after the post went out, so I added two clarification points early on in the article:

1. I am not giving up the fight, I will just fight differently, please see the conclusions (link),

2. This was not about NYU and people cheating in business schools; people cheat everywhere: the story gives an explanation why they remain undetected.

Oh well, people could not even read these two points.

But I want to write stories in my blog, not papers with an abstract, executive summary and table of contents.

Oh, this so reminds me of all the ass coverage at my wife's last place of work (also in academia).

yes, so pathetic

Wow, I think the professor may be the winner here. I felt that post hurt him more than help him.

tl;dr: He faces a backlash because his post violated a federal law protecting student privacy. The takedown had nothing to do with cheating.

> He faces a backlash because his post allegedly violated a federal law protecting student privacy.


Disappointing, it's mostly a recap of the original post. I can understand NYU being worried about the unauthorized quoting of a student's email, but the entire blog post? Surely, I/we are not the only ones finding it ironic, not just that he was negatively impacted (intentionally or not) by doing his job and pursuing the cheaters... but is now at some sort of risk for talking about the problem? Are we going to get into trouble for discussing this case. Jeesh.

He removed his content from his blog, I don't blame him at all, I would have deleted it too, lucky the internet has an un-delete button.

"Why I will never pursue cheating again" mirror:


""Why I will never pursue cheating again" word doc copy paste of content:


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