- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 26, 2002

A student-plagiarism investigation at the University of Virginia has ended with the dismissal of 45 students and the revocation of degrees from three graduates.
"It's over, thank goodness," Honor Committee Chairman Christopher Smith said yesterday.
The student-run committee, which supervises the Charlottesville school's 160-year-old honor system, finished the last plagiarism trial Saturday after a 20-month investigation. One hundred nine students were exonerated, and 48 others were either convicted of cheating or left school admitting guilt.
"It's never a happy day when 48 students leave," Mr. Smith said. "But it shows the system worked."
Two students challenged their dismissal in federal court this year, but their cases were dismissed, Mr. Smith said.
The plagiarism scandal began in spring 2001 when physics professor Lou Bloomfield heard that some students had copied their term papers in his introductory physics class. Mr. Bloomfield devised a computer program to detect duplicated phrases, catching 158 papers during the four previous semesters.
The term papers for this semester were due yesterday. Mr. Bloomfield said he'll again pass the papers through his plagiarism detector, but that he doesn't think there will be a similar problem.
"I think a lesson has been learned," he said. "Clearly, my students are much more aware of what's theirs and what's other people's. I've had a great many conversations with students this time about what they need to cite."
The University of Virginia is credited with one of the oldest honor systems in the country. On every test during college, students pledge never to lie, cheat or steal. The only penalty for breaking the code is dismissal from school.
Despite the highly publicized plagiarism investigation, Mr. Smith and Mr. Bloomfield agreed that cheating is not a major problem on campus. The 48 students who were caught cheating represent 2 percent of the students who took Mr. Bloomfield's classes, Mr. Smith said.


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