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Argosy steps up battle against plagiarism, removed official who cheated

Craig Swenson, who was appointed to head the Argosy University's, 18-campus system, said plagiarism awareness and rules of academic honesty are now ingrained in students from day one at the for-profit school.| Photo by Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

The new head of Argosy University said the school has taken broad steps to catch plagiarists in the wake of a scandal that led to the firing of an official at its Chicago campus.

Craig Swenson, who was appointed to head the Chicago-based, 18-campus university system in January, said plagiarism awareness and rules of academic honesty are now ingrained in students from day one at the for-profit school.

“We’ve made that part of every new student orientation now,” said Swenson, former provost of the University of Phoenix, the largest private university in North America. ” . . . The issues of plagiarism are talked about incessantly.”

That’s different from the situation at the school a few years ago, students enrolled at the school then said when a Sun-Times investigation found a former Argosy student who was serving as head of the school’s training department had plagiarized her doctoral research project.

After the Sun-Times stories appeared in 2006, the official, Bindu Ganga, was removed from her position, and her degree was rescinded.

Ron Kimberling, the president of the school’s Chicago campus, said avoiding plagiarism is now part of two separate orientations.

“A lot of graduate programs nationwide are feeling the effects of undergraduate students who may not have had the appropriate orientation to the proper use of sources,” said Kimberling. Noting how easy it is to cheat, Kimberling said the new focus was set up to combat a “cut-and-paste society.”

The school also has set up a separate disciplinary committee that deals just with student conduct issues, including plagiarism.

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Swenson said faculty is also made aware of the rules, and staff does checks to “look for anything in that person’s background that deals with plagiarism because we are obviously very sensitive to it,” he said. The school has a hotline set up to report wrongdoing.

Ganga was allowed to redo her project from scratch after she appealed the decision. She told the Sun-Times in December that her mistakes were “unintentional.”

Although Swenson wasn’t involved in the decision to let Ganga get her degree again, he says it was the right choice for Argosy.

“If we don’t believe in human development, who does?” Swenson said. “Especially in an institution that is about the social and behavioral sciences. I’m sure that [Ganga] was publicly embarrassed and chastened.”