Exec’s Wikipedia cit­ing un­in­ten­tional, UCA chief con­cludes

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - ARKANSAS - DE­BRA HALE-SHEL­TON

CON­WAY — The Univer­sity of Cen­tral Arkansas pres­i­dent said Tues­day that a UCA ex­ec­u­tive who quoted from a Wikipedia def­i­ni­tion of “science ed­u­ca­tion” with­out at­tri­bu­tion made an un­in­ten­tional mis­take.

Speak­ing to the UCA fac­ulty se­nate, Pres­i­dent Hous­ton Davis said, “With my stu­dents, if I ever sus­pect that there is pla­gia­rism, I want to bet­ter un­der­stand the in­tent,” whether it was un­in­ten­tional or in­ten­tional “for gain.”

Af­ter the meet­ing, Davis was specif­i­cally asked about the pla­gia­rism al­le­ga­tion against Christina Munoz Mad­sen, as­so­ciate vice pres­i­dent for com­mu­ni­ca­tions, pub­lic re­la­tions and mar­ket­ing.

“I think it’s ab­so­lutely un­in­ten­tional,” Davis said.

Davis de­clined to say whether Mad­sen had been dis­ci­plined.

He said the is­sue raises ques­tions about the re­view, or edit­ing, pro­cesses for such writ­ten ma­te­rial.

The pla­gia­rism com­plaint had re­ferred to a let­ter from the edi­tor Mad­sen wrote for UCA Mag­a­zine.

The com­plaint noted that in the Novem­ber edi­tion, Mad­sen wrote in part, “Science ed­u­ca­tion is ac­tu­ally de­fined as the field in which we share science con­tent and process with in­di­vid­u­als not tra­di­tion­ally con­sid­ered part of the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity.”

The com­plaint then said, “I thought it sounded strange so I checked the In­ter­net. I learned that Ms. Mad­sen had taken this def­i­ni­tion from Wikipedia, a site that no self-re­spect­ing aca­demic would ever use for real re­search. Fur­ther­more, she didn’t even cite where the in-

for­ma­tion was ob­tained from. In a class­room, this would be pla­gia­rism. The high­est form of aca­demic fraud and we would never al­low our stu­dents to do this. Why should she?”

An on­line search shows that a Wikipedia page says in part, “Science ed­u­ca­tion is the field con­cerned with shar­ing science con­tent and process with in­di­vid­u­als not tra­di­tion­ally con­sid­ered part of the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity.”

Davis did not broach the pla­gia­rism com­plaint un­til a mem­ber of the fac­ulty se­nate — Paulette Wal­ter, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of jour­nal­ism — asked about it.

When stu­dents pla­gia­rize, they are held ac­count­able, she said.

Davis said he “ab­so­lutely” op­poses pla­gia­rism and said such a mis­take would give him the op­por­tu­nity to sit down with the per­son “to see if it was in­ten­tional.”

“What mes­sage are we send­ing to the stu­dents?” Wal­ter asked. “Our stu­dents are ask­ing” about the is­sue.

Wal­ter noted that a pre­vi­ous UCA vice pres­i­dent

of com­mu­ni­ca­tions who taught a re­port­ing class re­signed over al­le­ga­tions of pla­gia­rism in 2006. “He did have some other is­sues,” she added.

Jen Tabolt, a mem­ber of the fac­ulty se­nate and a UCA as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in writ­ing, said she had “se­ri­ous eth­i­cal con­cerns” about Mad­sen’s is­sue.

Mad­sen de­clined to com­ment on ques­tions emailed to her Tues­day by the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette. They in­cluded whether she agreed with Davis’ as­sess­ment, whether the Wikipedia us­age was an iso­lated oc­cur­rence, and whether she ne­glected to at­tribute the def­i­ni­tion.

“Pres­i­dent Davis has ad­dressed the mat­ter and I have noth­ing fur­ther to add,” she replied in an email.

UCA’s stu­dent hand­book lists pla­gia­rism as a form of aca­demic mis­con­duct. Penal­ties for un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents can vary but even on a first of­fense “may in­clude a fail­ing grade” on the as­sign­ment or the course if a teacher chooses.

By the third of­fense, if the stu­dent is not ex­on­er­ated, the hand­book pro­vides that sanc­tions can vary and range up to ex­pul­sion.

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