Sources close to The Pacer say that Information Systems assistant professor Keith Herrel has filed as many as 12 cases of plagiarism violations with Student Conduct Officer Vishenia Huery for review.
Herrel said Thursday that “it is certainly true that plagiarism should not be condoned,” but he would not discuss any specific cases from his class.
Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Tom Rakes declined to comment about the specifics of the plagiarism claim, but did clarify the university’s policies.
“As a matter of practice and fairness to all concerned, I do not discuss details concerning students or faculty when they involve ongoing or specific operational matters involving instructional practice until after due process has been provided for all concerned,” Rakes said.
“These matters are confidential under the provisions of both state and federal law,” he added.
Sen. Dusty Dean, SGA Academic Affairs chair, sees things slightly differently.
“If there are 12 purported plagiarism violations stemming from one upper-division class, then perhaps the offense lies not with the students,” Dean said.
Another concern stemming from ongoing inquiries is the closing of an online section of Information Systems 310 to only off-campus students. Several students have complained about the closing to The Pacer. The on-campus course is taught by Herrel.
Rakes said that it is university policy that if sections of the same course are offered on campus, campus students are routed into these sections.
Online classes were introduced with the advent of the Bachelor of Undergraduate Studies (BUS) degree offered at UTM, in which the original proposal for the online program as approved through the UT System stipulates that these online offerings are to be directed toward non-traditional, off-campus students.
“We simply do not have enough online sections to open up access to everyone,” Rakes said.
“I support the university policy for online courses as that policy as stated by Academic Affairs,” Herrel also said.
Department Chair Edd Joyner is said to have fielded several student concerns about changes in the section offerings.
“The supposedly ‘late’ notice about the restriction on the on-line class was in fact an early notice. No on-campus students were being allowed in the class before I ever made my decision,” said Joyner.
“Regardless of my decision, no on-campus student would have been allowed in until after on-line student registration had ended and then only if room remained in the class. My preference, however, is to cancel the section if we fail to meet minimum enrollment with on-line students,” he added.
Brian Davis, an on campus student currently enrolled in the online section does not agree.
“I think if a student wants to take an online course, it should always be permitted as long as there is space left, since the premise of online courses is ‘learning anywhere’ not ‘learning anywhere but here,’” Davis said.
Joyner said that plagiarism appears to be reaching “epidemic” proportions, citing several examples of students as well as faculty cases across the country, but has not passed judgment on these cases.
“Should the charges be unfounded, we would not want the student’s reputation unjustly tarnished. Likewise, should it be a first offense of a student, we would like that student to have a chance to turn things around without the gossip mill getting in the way,” Joyner said.
Ernest Moser, Dean of the Business & Public Affairs would not comment on either the plagiarism cases or the online section’s restrictions.
However, he said that “Mr. Herrel will be leaving at the end of his current contract. He will continue to teach during the spring but will not be at UTM in the fall.”