In a rare move, the University of Tokyo, Komaba, locally known as Todai, has reported that one of its students plagiarized a term report using information from the Internet. It was the first time the prestigious school has openly reported a cheating student.
The university found out that 75 percent of the report was copied from the Internet and took punitive measures, it said in a statement uploaded to its website Tuesday.
“It was meant as a warning message, especially for our students. We wanted to take a strong preventive measure, so that such plagiarism won’t reoccur,” said a public relations officer at Todai, adding that it has been warning students about such cheating for years.
The university did not disclose the name of the student due to privacy reasons, but said he or she was in the third or fourth year at the College of Arts and Sciences and that the plagiarism took place in a paper submitted at the end of the current winter term.
The university informs all students at the beginning of the academic year that those who cheat (or cooperate on cheating) on tests and reports will forfeit all credits during that term.
Yohei Tsunemi, a human resource consultant at HR Research Institute who writes and lectures extensively about university students and job hunting, said he feels the issue at Todai was a “serious wake-up call for all Japanese universities.”
He said schools should be more careful in teaching students how to write research papers, because some students do not even know how to list their references or quote people.
Kazunari Hori, associate professor at the Center for Education in Liberal Arts and Sciences, at Osaka University, said it has become much easier for students to just copy and paste information from elsewhere, as computers have improved in recent years and the Internet is ubiquitous.
He also said that over the past decade or so, universities have assigned reports on a more frequent basis as they are now expected to assess students on their ability to analyze and give their own opinions on issues, instead of just testing them on how much they have memorized.
“Students know that copying and pasting is not a good thing to do, but because they are loaded with reports to submit each semester, they have started doing so without hesitation, in order to get the reports done,” Hori said.
The plagiarism issue entered the spotlight last year when former Riken researcher Haruko Obokata used images and text without attribution in publishing research papers, later debunked, on a new type of stem cell she dubbed “STAP.”
“(Todai’s case) shows that especially after the STAP paper case, universities are tightening up more on misconduct like this,” Tsunemi said.