Damielys Duarte/Staff Writer
Every semester begins with the flurry of classes and schedules, but most notably, the group chat links that spring up in everyone’s Canvas inbox.
These chats then morph into a 24-hour digital meeting place for students to discuss coursework and other relevant class material. And although they can sometimes fall under FIU’s academic misconduct policies due to plagiarism, that does not give professors or FIU the right to cancel or interfere in these online chat rooms.
Just this fall, one of my professors was mistakenly (or purposefully) added to our class group chat, and sent an email reading that any outside chat related to the class would have to be shut down as it violated FIU’s plagiarism guidelines.
Naturally, we were alarmed, and we all questioned the authority of our professor regarding the congregation of students on an outside platform.
The answer is simple: FIU nor any faculty member cannot infringe student liberties to speak freely on a social platform.
While FIU’s Student Conduct and Honor Code categorizes plagiarism as an academic misconduct violation, nowhere in FIU’s policies does it claim professors can ask students to shut down group chats if they suspect plagiarism or even require the professor’s participation in said chat.
The most they can do is issue a charge for academic misconduct, which could result in an investigation. And while that might result in the termination of our digital hub, such restrictions censor students’ communication with fellow peers.
Cracking down on plagiarism is important for student integrity, but not all group chats are centered around the illicit trading of educational information. They’re crucial for students to communicate with fellow peers regarding any questions or concerns they might have about class. They’re especially valuable when all your classes are online and there’s no time to meet in person and discuss concepts you didn’t understand.
The practice of plagiarism will not be eradicated by removing online communication, as the same can be done in person in the middle of the Graham Center. What it will destroy is the only safe environment students cling to during midterm and finals weeks. As such, FIU must respect the civil liberties of its students and refrain from allowing any of its staff from interfering in students’ online communication.
Featured photo from Senado Federal on Flickr.
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