Ancient years ago, when my husband was a grad student, I worked as a secretary at the same university, in one of the foreign-language departments. One day, one of our doctoral students—a native speaker of the language in question—came into the office with a very interesting tale.
A master's student in another department had offered to pay her to translate a journal article from the language in question into English. Someone had suggested it to him as a source for his master's thesis, but he didn't read the language well enough to deal with it in the original. Fortunately, our student had the presence of mind to check with the other department. Turned out that the other student was supposed to be translating the article himself, as part of the work for his thesis. Obviously, our student didn't accept the job. Equally obviously, the jig was up for the other guy: not only had he been planning to cheat, he'd tried to suborn someone else to help him, without that person knowing that they'd be abetting fraud.
We never did hear what happened to the other student, so all these years I've been wondering: What is, or ought to be, the penalty for academic dishonesty that gets uncovered before it actually takes place? Is it worse for a high-stakes project like a master's thesis than for an ordinary course assignment? Is it worse yet when you try to involve someone else who doesn't know what's going on?
I would have booted him out of the program..ReplyDelete
I second that. Attempting dishonesty is no different from achieving dishonesty: the intent was to deceive. To me, doing this even on a minor assignment is sufficient reason to boot someone from the program: once dishonesty is found, everything that person has done becomes tainted.Delete
If the student submitted a translation that was mostly done by somebody else, that would have been one thing. Mind you, even then, he may have been able to simply indicate who the translator is, or who helped him with the translation, therefore not stealing anybody's work.Delete
However, as long as no translation was actually provided as his own, no cheating took place. Since there are many different ways to translate the very same text, ordering or being in possession of one or several versions of the translation or even borrowing a turn of phrase from some existing text without acknowledging the source is not cheating or plagiarism. Translators are, in fact, supposed to find good expressions that already exist instead of inventing the wheel. And naturally, a good translation may contain several parts that are quite similar to what other translators wrote. They wrote the same thing because they translated the same text. If I say "il fait beau" and my colleague says "il fait beau", maybe that's just the right expression in French, and we have no idea who first invented it, nor did we necessarily copy from each other.
Of course, the student may not have the required language skills, but that's a different issue.
Monica's assertions that "no cheating took place" or that "ordering or being in possession of . . . the translation . . . is not cheating" are refuted by actual policies I've quoted in my comment below.Delete
I can think of several scenarios in which the student could have had a legitimate purpose to solicit and/or possess a translation he did not do himself. The fact that he lied about the nature of the assignment during his solicitation indicates that he knew that being completely truthful would alert others to his intent to possess and use the material for fraudulent purposes.
"no cheating took place"Delete
If I walk into a bank, point a gun and say 'this is a stick up" I am in deep trouble even if I didn't actually get any money.
"I can think of several scenarios in which the student could have had a legitimate purpose to solicit and/or possess a translation he did not do himself."Delete
By which I mean, if his motives were legit, he could have been transparent about them, but he wasn't, so they (almost surely) weren't.
"If the student submitted a translation that was mostly done by somebody else, that would have been one thing. Mind you, even then, he may have been able to simply indicate who the translator is, or who helped him with the translation, therefore not stealing anybody's work."Delete
Wait, what? You mean he could have said "I, Stu Masters, am turning in this translation of the seminal paper Über das voll geile Mathematikdingsbums, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the M.A. in Mathematics. Translation by Brünnhilde Deutsch." and that would have been OK?
Since the OP said this was a journal article, I can't imagine what the possible utility could be of translating it more than once. It's not like translating the Aeneid or something, where there really would be numerous "other translators" whose work could all be compared.
It depends on the actual requirements. If doing the translation was only a small part of the work to be done and the reason he had to do it himself was that no reliable translation existed, maybe he could have obtained the required permission. Or maybe not, but he could have tried and whatever he did, at least he would have been honest about it.Delete
I wonder if the would-be master's student claimed to be only investigating how easy it would be to cheat on such an assignment.ReplyDelete
As for the specific questions, they will require some more thought. Academic dishonesty involves more than just the actors. Each event that comes to light -- even one that was stopped in the planning stage -- erodes other people's trust in system that cannot exist without trust. It thus seems reasonable that planning in itself should be a punishable act. But the punishment must fit the crime.
I find cases like this all the time. It really depends on the school and the program. Typically, at the graduate level, the student would have probably been removed from the program. At the undergraduate level I see this all the time and not much really happens to the students even after I report them. My question is why the student in this case had to translate an entire article as part of his/her thesis. Were they in a language translation graduate program? If so, how was he or she admitted if he/she hadn't already been fully vetted in terms of language proficiency?ReplyDelete
I suspect that he probably just barely passed the "Graduate Reading Knowledge" course that most of the language departments offered for graduate students who were expected to acquire a reading knowledge of a particular language as part of their degree requirements. We never did get the whole story; it may be that he was simply supposed to read it and make use of it on his own, and couldn't. (Pennsylvania Penny responding; I'm having a little trouble navigating the response system here.)ReplyDelete
The grad student would (should) be dismissed. No question about it.ReplyDelete
Definitely an odd situation, especially on the grad level (where I can imagine a language-competency exam requiring translation of a short passage from the scholarly literature -- mine did -- but I can't quite imagine a situation where it would be inappropriate to seek out a translation of a single source if translation/language competency was not at the core of the program, in which case I wouldn't expect the student to have gotten this).ReplyDelete
However, as far as intent to cheat in general goes: yes, I think it's actionable. Catching a student with an unauthorized cheat sheet, or coming out of a bathroom stall where a textbook was concealed, even if (s)he had not yet had the chance to transfer the illicitly-attained information to the test, would still result in an honor charge at any institution with which I'm familiar. Ditto for soliciting a ghostwriter for a term paper (or thesis, dissertation, etc.), even if the document was never produced (which seems like the closest parallel to this case). At the grad level, there really shouldn't be second chances for this kind of thing. Whether there sometimes are is another question.
end of first paragraph should read "this far without demonstrating true competence."Delete
I composed my comment of 6:05 offline and pasted it into an unrefreshed page. When my comment posted, the refreshed page revealed your comment. Glad to see that our understandings are in accord.Delete
The coffee kicked in, I did some research, and I can now further opine. (I can thank Monica for mentioning "possession", which was the final "ah, yes" to what I was trying to get to in my earlier comment.)ReplyDelete
Certain offenses are classified as inchoate or nonconsummate, in that they are preparatory for a crime. The fact that the ultimate crime did not yet take place is not necessarily a get out of jail free card. For example, we've probably heard of the chargeable offenses of solicitation of murder and possession of instruments of crime. I am not a legal scholar, so I'll forgo explaining the legal theory, other than to note that attempt and conspiracy are other inchoate offenses.
In academic honor codes, certain acts are considered cheating even if the assignment was never submitted, which parallels the situation in the real world. Here are some examples:
"Cheating ... The possession, receipt, use or solicitation of unauthorized materials, information, notes, study aids or other devices in any academic exercise." Source. Source. Source.
"Examples of cheating include: ... possessing unauthorized notes, study sheets, examinations, or other materials during an examination or other academic exercise ..." Source.
"Cheating: ... the unauthorized possession of examination papers or course materials, whether originally authorized or not." Source.
"Academic Misconduct / Unauthorized assistance: Using or attempting to use unauthorized materials, information or study aids in any academic exercise unless specifically authorized by the instructor of record. The unauthorized possession of examination or course related material also constitutes cheating." Source.
And so on.
TL;DR: The guy is toast.
Do you actually mean that if it just happened that one or several translations of the text in question already exist, the student is actually expected not to consult them? This question is not as stupid as it sounds: literary works often have several translated versions and revisions. Maybe that is not the case for an article, but who knows? Maybe it has, in fact, been translated. How would it even be possible to enforce the rule that the student is not allowed to see that existing translation anyway?ReplyDelete
Or, if he is allowed to see some translation that just happens to exist (or there is just no practical way to make sure he won't), what difference does it make if he actually ordered that translation? If and when he actually presented that translation as his own, that would have been different, but he did not do that and perhaps wouldn't have.
This is quite simple. The OP said, "the other student was supposed to be translating the article himself." Since the assignment is to do the translation himself, he is not to consult any translation, whether extant or commissioned, to execute his translation. Full stop.Delete
Here's how it is possible to enforce the rule: If the student is caught lying while soliciting to get someone else to do the translation which he was supposed to do himself, then he can be prosecuted and possibly convicted for academic dishonesty.
Just because a rule is difficult to enforce doesn't make it not worth having. To believe otherwise is to commit the nirvana fallacy.
It sounds like a situation where no translation was extant (otherwise the student who needed a translation for anything but completing a translation assignment/exercise would have been consulting interlibrary loan, not a translator).Delete
If a reputable translation does exist, then it's basically a citation problem. If there are conflicting translations, that sounds like the starting point for an interesting translation and/or critical project, but only if the person tackling the project is fully qualified to read/translate the text in its original language.
But wouldn't it be much easier and less questionable to allow the student to fail or pass on his own merits? Once he produces a translation, he would be expected to be able to answer questions such as "which word or expression in the original was translated as X in English?". If, with the original and the translation, he can't figure that out, obviously he did not do the translation.Delete
I think Monica is overthinking the situation. The student was supposed to do an assignment himself. He offered to pay someone else to do it for him. He got caught. Those facts were not in dispute. My only question was what the consequences should be. I'm glad to see so many people agreeing with me that he should have been tossed out of the program on his tush. However, as in most universities, honor proceedings aren't made public, so we didn't get to hear the end of the story.Delete
Except that he did not actually submit as his own, or even obtain for that matter, any translation done by somebody else. In theory, even if he intended to cheat, he could have changed his mind.Delete
This is not like walking into a bank and pointing a gun. It's more like being punished for a bank robbery that never happened, just for having ordered a ski mask that was not even delivered.
Monica, if it has been determined that ski masks have no purpose other than robbing banks, ordering a ski mask could be a chargeable offense irrespective of whether it was delivered.Delete
If an honor code says soliciting for unauthorized materials is a violation, then it is a violation to solicit the materials.
I agree that the bank-robbery analogy isn't very exact here. If someone is prevented from robbing a bank, there are other legitimate ways for him to obtain money. In academia, as OPH pointed out earlier, trust is everything; once someone has proven himself untrustworthy, he has no other access to academic accomplishments. The only way his work can now be trusted is if someone physically supervises every minute of it, which simply isn't feasible. That's why he should get kicked out: there's only one legitimate way of playing the game, and he's thrown away his chance to do that.Delete
Penny, what can we do to persuade you to come back to the academy as an administrator?Delete
Thanks for the vote of confidence, Proffie Galore! I'm an editor for an academic press and I love my job, but I'm glad someone who's actually in the academic trenches thinks my moral-judgment head is screwed on straight.Delete