Students react to Walsh plagiarism accusations


Students react to Sen. Walsh plagiarism accusations

BOZEMAN, Mont. - The United States Army War College tells NBC Montana it will fully investigate accusations of plagiarism against Senator John Walsh.

According to the New York Times, Walsh's 2007 Army War College thesis included unattributed text from other writers.

Walsh denies he plagiarized the work, saying it was unintentional and blamed it in part on post-Iraq War trauma.

Walsh's campaign said Walsh will not withdraw from the November election over the allegations.

According to the U.S. Army War College, it's the Academic Review Board's job to fully investigate failures of academic integrity, standards or progress. The investigation is formal and includes a legal review of its findings. The College Dean will review the findings and recommend the penalty.  

Penalties can include expulsion for current students, and in the case of graduates, like Walsh, graduation status could be revoked.

Walsh's campaign tells NBC Montana they'll work with War College and provide any information they request.

NBC Montana headed to Montana State University to get reaction from college students about the issue of plagiarism in the digital age.

We spoke with MSU student Greta Robison as she worked on her laptop at the library. She explained that, for her, plagiarism isn't even an option.

"There has always been an emphasis on plagiarism, that it is a serious problem, and that you'll get in major trouble," she said.

She explained it is troubling to learn Walsh is accused of plagiarizing portions of his Master's thesis from the U.S. Army War College in 2007.

"That does make me lose some respect for him and his campaign and what he stands for," she said.

Robison explained plagiarizing is easier nowadays because of all the available resources online, but it's also easier for professors to recognize when a student's work isn't their own.

"Just as technology increases the ability for people to copy, it increases the ability for people to check," Robison said.

MSU student Dan Deming agreed, referencing sites like Turnitin.com, a website that cross-references a student's work against a database, then alerts teachers to how much work is not original.

"There are better tools to find out that you are cheating," Deming said, explaining he thinks cheating is not worth the risk.

Students caught copying work at Montana State could get a failing grade or be suspended, depending on the severity of the case.

"You're flushing down your education, pretty much," Deming said.

And in Walsh's case, Deming said he could be flushing his political credibility, too.

"I think it does affect his credibility and it affects the Democratic Party," said Deming.

But for Robison, the implications Walsh may have cheated, are even more far-reaching.

"It shows how critical we are of certain individuals," she said, "like, say, the freshman who might be copying and pasting off of Wikipedia, but we let an entire thesis slip through the cracks because it's a credible person."

We also spoke to Turnitin.com's Vice President of Marketing, who said, in response to Walsh's case, this type of situation is fairly typical, where potential plagiarism doesn't come to light for a few years.

Now with documentation so readily available online, he said, it is only a matter of time.

Walsh's competitor in the race for the Senate seat, Representative Steve Daines, has stayed quiet since news of the cheating broke.

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