Syllabus Plagiarism

is the topic of an article in The Chronicle of Higher Ed.

She had a syllabus almost entirely plagiarized and found out about it when a student came to ask to borrow a book.

The American Association of University Professors has an informational outline on intellectual-property issues that says the “prevailing academic practice” is for faculty members to own the copyrights of scholarly works and teaching materials that are “created independently and at the faculty member’s own initiative.” However, some faculty work is considered “work for hire” — documents made by faculty members for the university to fulfill their contractual obligations, and owned by the university.
But maybe not. As Gary Rhoades writes in “Whose Property Is It? Negotiating with the University,” “increasingly, faculty members’ intellectual products, including those generated from their basic research and teaching activities, are being considered as commodities.” Much of that push comes from courses delivered online, where the syllabus and other course materials are purchased and both faculty members and universities have the potential to make money.

I have used statements from other teachers which I got online and attributed them.

I have used entire templates given to me by my colleges and have not attributed those.

SLAC specifies that the syllabus I am handing out, no matter how much my own, is created and annually reviewed by the “English department.”

I have asked before to borrow someone’s work or to attribute it to them. Some say yes; some don’t answer. Does that mean I can’t borrow their work?

What if I used someone’s syllabus to get started? The finished syllabus is totally mine, my words, my choices of work, my direction, but I used theirs to get started. Do I have to attribute that?

A paragraph on the history of plagiarism was interesting from another perspective:

In Stolen Words, Thomas Mallon writes that plagiarism as a concept emerged in the 17th century when, for the first time, people could make a living as writers. Before then, words could not be owned; no one would have claimed to own a sentence any more than they might claim to own the sky. For most of our literary history, Mallon writes, imitation was the preferred mode of composing. Originality emerged along with the notion of writing as an occupation and with, not surprisingly, the invention of the printing press. The history of plagiarism reinforces the fact that writing has to be seen as valuable to begin with before it will be deemed worth protecting.

My family has asked me where the impetus behind plagiarism came from. This is what she and Thomas Mallon had to say.

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