Tag Archives: ferpa

Publicly exposing cheaters?

Is this going too far to punish and deter academic dishonesty?

Texas A&M International University in Laredo fired a professor for publishing the names of students accused of plagiarism.

In his syllabus, professor Loye Young wrote that he would “promptly and publicly fail and humiliate anyone caught lying, cheating or stealing.” After he discovered six students had plagiarized on an essay, Young posted their names on his blog, resulting in his firing last week.

“It’s really the only way to teach the students that it’s inappropriate,” he said.

Young, a former adjunct professor of management information systems, said he believes he made the right move. He said trials are public for a reason, and plagiarism should be treated the same way. He added that exposing cheaters is an effective deterrent.

“They were told the consequences in the syllabus,” he said. “They didn’t believe it.”

Young was fired for violating FERPA. Young, and some of the commenters at the original article, don’t seem to understand the idea that a syllabus is not a legally-binding contract, and a course syllabus cannot overrule Federal law. So it doesn’t really matter whether he had this public humiliation clause in the syllabus or whether the students read it. Choosing not to drop a course does not amount to acquiescing to the syllabus policies if those policies are illegal. You might as well say that cheaters will be shot on sight and then claim immunity from assault charges for putting a cap in a plagiarizing student, because after all the student knew the consequences.

There’s also a sort of moral issue here too. Young lost his job because what he did violates FERPA. But if there were no FERPA, would it be OK to publicly humiliate a student who had been determined — let’s say beyond a reasonable doubt — to be guilty of cheating?

UPDATE: Young’s blog no longer has the offending article on it, but he has this response to TAMIU in which he claims he “analyzed FERPA at the department chair’s request” before posting the article, submitted his analysis to the university, and got no indication that his analysis was incorrect.

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Filed under Academic honesty, Education, Life in academia, Teaching

Speaking of grading…

…it’s not really good to farm out your grading tasks to a person who is not an employee of your university, as one faculty member at  IU-South Bend apparently has done:

Professor Otis B. Grant faces sanctions as a result of student complaints that he allowed a nonemployee to grade student work and access student academic records, a potential violation of federal privacy laws.

Students also complained that Grant used foul language in class, improperly canceled classes and dismissed two students from a course without due process.

The investigation did not determine the identity of Riane Hunter, the name used by a woman who identified herself as Grant’s graduate assistant. Students said she graded and signed their academic papers and sent instructions to the class from Grant’s campus e-mail address.

No one named Riane Hunter is employed by IUSB or has ever been enrolled at any IU campus, according to IU administrators. Students said Grant referred to a woman named Riane Hunter as his graduate assistant for several years, but no student has come forward who met her in person.

Indeed, some of the IUSB administrators are not even sure if “Riane Hunter” even exists. Read the whole article, which describes even more lurid behavior, such as summarily expelling students from a course and refusing to let students see their final exams. And yet, he was granted tenure and even won teaching awards as recently as 2005. If any one of those allegations are true, is it any wonder that the general public has such a negative view of higher education?

Ironically, Prof. Grant teaches “law and society” and affiliates himself with the “Institute for the Study of Race, Law and Public Policy” and the “Center for Leadership, Law and Culture”. The latter appears to be fictitious, based on newspaper investigation. The former has a web site here with almost nothing on it, with the exception of Prof. Grant’s credentials, which describe him as “a critical socio-legal theorist and psychoanalyst whose work focuses on the intersection of culture, jurisprudence, leadership and power” with “a particular interest in legal (un)consciousness”.

Indeed, you’d have to be pretty legally unconscious to think that you can hire out your grading and evaluations to a non-employee of the university and not violate FERPA in a hundred different ways.

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Filed under Higher ed, Life in academia, Teaching