Penn State Rejects 48 For Plagiarism

by John A. Byrne on

Penn State’s Smeal College of Business said it has rejected 48 applicants for plagiarized essays in the first two rounds of its admissions cycle, while UCLA’s Anderson School of Management reported it has turned down 15 MBA candidates from its round one applicant pool.

The plagiarists were uncovered by the schools using software that scans admission essays and runs they through a database of content to single out similarities. Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which disclosed the rejections at Penn State and UCLA yesterday (Jan. 7), also reported that another 50 “potential” cases of plagiarism have been “flagged” at Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business.

What makes these latest disclosures so surprising is that both Smeal and Anderson had already made public the fact that they are using the Turnitin for Admissions software to detect applicants who copy part of their essays from other existing work. Indeed, both schools had publicly released the number of applicants who have been rejected for such transgressions in earlier years.

UCLA’S ANDERSON FOUND 52 APPLICANTS WHO LIFTED PASSAGES FOR THEIR ESSAYS IN ROUNDS ONE AND TWO LAST YEAR

Last year, as reported by Poets&Quants, Anderson detected 12 plagiarists in its first round and 40 more in the second round. The school rejected all 52 applicants. School officials at Anderson decided to begin using the anti-plagiarism software due to the increased use of admission consultants and essay editing services for MBA candidates. “We’ve had a concern for awhile that there has been an increasing use of these so-called consultants who help applicants with their applications,” said Andrew Ainslie, senior associate dean for the full-time MBA program,  “Many of these consultants are ethical and do the right thing. But quite a few of them either write the essays themselves or pull them out of catalogs.”

At Smeal, MBA Managing Director Carrie Marcinkevage told BusinessWeek that 10% of the 481 people who applied in the first and second rounds had plagiarized essays, up from 8% for the full admissions cycle last year. “Many of the new cases are international applicants from East Asian countries, where borrowing from published sources without attribution is not considered wrong, Marcinkevage says. The increase comes despite a disclosure on the Smeal website notifying applicants that their essays will be reviewed for plagiarism,” reported BusinessWeek.

Anderson told BusinessWeek it expects the number of applicants rejected for plagiarism to hit 70 by the end of the third and final round on April 17. Most candidates lifted passages from essay websites, while others copied things  from Wikipedia and Bloomberg Businessweek. One applicant lifted half of his “goals” essay from samples available online. Last year, another plagiarized 85% of an essay, without changing the gender of the pronouns, according to the school.

PENN STATE’S SMEAL WAS AMONG THE FIRST BUSINESS SCHOOLS TO USE THE ANTI-PLAGIARISM SOFTWARE

Two years ago, Penn State was among the first business schools to use the software after its admissions director for the Smeal School noticed that a required essay on the connections between principled leadership and business seemed remarkably similar to one she had already read. When then admissions director Marcinkevage reportedly pulled out the other essay and put them side by side, she discovered that both applicants had used the exact same sentence, word for word

The discovery prompted her admissions staff to comb through all the pending applications for Smeal’s 2010 admissions season. The upshot: some 29 cases of plagiarism were found, including those among applicants who had already been admitted or invited for an admissions interview. In some cases, the applicants lifted entire paragraphs, including an essay written by a dean of another business school.

Last year, Anderson rejected its applicants without directly accusing them of plagiarism, prompting concern by some that applicants could be tossed out of the pool on a “false positive” result from the software. “On false positives, we verify by hand the exact sources and ensure that the material has truly been plagiarized,” said Ainsle. “Turnitin’s tools are very user-friendly and allows us to look at the source material copied as well as the applicant’s material. Sometimes, it’s merely an issue of a well-known saying, a cliche or a quotation being used in both locations, in which case we do not treat it as plagiarism. Furthermore, if only one or two sentences are the same, we give the applicant the benefit of the doubt. What concerns us is if entire paragraphs–or even worse, entire essays–have been lifted. These are the people excluded from further consideration.”

DON’T MISS: UCLA REJECTS 52 MBA APPLICANTS FOR PLAGIARISM 

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