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Stop being so lazy and write the paper

By Deron Overpeck
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 10, 2000
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Lately, the Associated Students have been up in arms about a proposed change to the Code of Academic Integrity. The proposal, to require students to receive prior approval from the professor before turning the same work into more than one class, is clearly sensible. That it would even be an issue shows how cheapened the educational process has become.

One sentence can sum up why the faculty should approve the change. We're students at a Research I university. A very important part of being students at a Research I university is learning how to conduct original research across a variety of topics. Unfortunately, too few of us here at the UA behave like students. They whine if they have to go within sight of the library, and expect to be able to turn in the same work to more than one class. To encourage students to do original work, the Faculty Senate made the reasonable proposal that unmodified work cannot be turned in to more than one class.

But not everyone sees student laziness as a problem. Our esteemed student senators believe the faculty are not doing enough to ensure that students don't receive assignments similar to assignments in other classes. "(I)t infuriates me when I waste my time in class doing the same work for classes that I've paid for," mewled Sen. Tiffany Podbielski. Sen. Shane Brogan echoed her complaint, "If I have to write the same paper for two classes, then this university has ripped me off."

Here's a quick solution to that problem: Don't write the same paper. Even if two classes are so similar that you can think of no other research subject than one you've already written about, a new, thoughtful paper still can be written. No issue is so cut and dry that only one meaningful research paper can be written about it. In my graduate career, I have already written two papers about one filmmaker and will write one more about him this semester. None of the papers will be substantially similar to another one. With even a little thought and creativity, anyone can devise a number of approaches to a single topic.

Alas, even a little thought and creativity are hard to come by these days. Those qualities require us not to be lazy, and to take responsibility for what we do. Of course, the senators opposed to the proposal argue that students shouldn't be the ones to put thought and creativity into their assignments; that is the bailiwick of the faculty. "I don't see the faculty taking any responsibility," pouts Sen. Brogan.

Responsibility for what? For ensuring you don't have to tax your minds too much during your approximately four years here by putting thought into an assignment, even if at first glance it seems identical to another assignment? The responsibility of the faculty is to guide students in their education and research, and to evaluate the results of that research. It absolutely is not their responsibility to tailor class assignments so every student has to put the minimal amount of effort into selecting and researching a project. It's your education; take responsibility for it.

Perhaps the student Senate's reaction should have been expected; perhaps by focusing on a trivial issue instead of addressing something of value, they are practicing for careers as state and federal legislators. But, sadly, the Faculty Senate is reconsidering the change because of the student Senate's protests. That they would be willing to work on a "compromise" on so simple an issue speaks volumes about how little the atmosphere at this university supports education. This is, after all, the university that decides the best way to acclimate incoming freshmen to college life is by segregating them into a subterranean chamber.

This proposal should not be reconsidered. In fact, it shouldn't even be a proposal; it should already be in the code. It doesn't prevent students from building on work they've done in other classes; it simply requires them to be honest about it. The faculty should immediately pass the proposal. It would be one step in reestablishing a proper academic atmosphere at the UA.

Deron Overpeck is a graduate student in Media Art. He can be reached at editor@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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