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After Amanda Serpico, a former student at Rutgers State University of New Jersey, got an email from the instructor telling her paper was plagiarized, it just bewildered her. She wrote a paper on gay marriage and incorrectly cited some phrases, so that was where the accusation came from.

Although Amanda claimed that if those phrases were not properly cited, there still was a reference to them, nobody took that into account and Serpico was given “F”. Despite the fact she was allowed to graduate, the “F” grade influenced her other subsequent admissions to several universities including the University of South Carolina and University of Texas at Austin where she got rejected.

Finally, after she provided a university with  detailed and well grounded explanation written on several pages, she was accepted at the Florida State University and she is studying there now.

Amanda believed that the plagiarism checker flawed, because it detected only verbatim copying.

Plagiarism University Cases Grow in Number

An increased focus on academic dishonesty is associated with the high rate of plagiarism cases according to the statistics of Rutgers. After the university professors started to check students’ works with the help of a plagiarism detection tool, the number of academic cheating revealed became much higher than it was initially presumed. There was a great number of students, who obviously cheated after disciplinary measures were imposed on them. In most cases, it happened due to the lack of understanding that everything that is posted on the Internet can’t be just copied and pasted into a student’s paper. Still, Serpico’s case is unusual and dubious.

Generally, academic dishonesty cases are solved behind the closed doors. In Serpico’s case, she was deprived of appealing against the decision and was just found guilty.

Human Factor in Plagiarism Detection Programs

With plagiarism checkers at hand, it has become much easier for the academic staff to check student papers for cheating. The advantage of such programs is that professors can get a report on any work within seconds, after that they can easily assess a student’s work based on its originality rate. On the contrary, a plagiarism detector still remains just a tool for checking, while a human factor should be involved.

The work going through a plagiarism checker should be thoroughly reviewed and soberly estimated by educator.

Anyway, educators should keep in mind that plagiarism detection software can’t be 100% right when assessing a work. So, when using any program, they should double check the obtained results and have their own human judgement in order to avoid such unfair cases as the one which happened to Amanda Serpico. It badly influenced her academic career.

Amanda Serpico’s Insight

Amanda wanted to break a story and publish all the related documents in her defence. She confessed that she felt absolutely hopeless and was falsely accused. The bitter truth was that she had no chance to appeal. Her family hired an attorney to investigate this case. Both sides exchanged a dozen of letters. That’s amazing but after another letter, the campus lawyer explained that Serpico depleted her appeals and her “F” grade will remain unchanged.

What is even more impressive it’s that she got a letter before Christmas imputing her in plagiarism, Amanda didn’t even realize it was true and just sent an email back with a request to check it properly. Before New Year’s Eve her professor wrote a letter explaining that everything was ok, and only 3 passages cited were not referenced and were literally the same as on the gay blog. Although Amanda claimed in her 8 pages everything she had in her paper was referenced, nobody believed her. So, she had to obtain her Master’s degree in science/sports management and communications at Florida State University.

In spite of the fact student plagiarism cases are kept at university archives for 10 years and that students have the right to ask university representatives to withdraw them, Amanda Serpico’s unfair accusation is offensive and still unusual.

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