Typography

Last week, our copy editors discovered a column submitted by a Sedona Red Rock High School student was plagiarized.

The column had been submitted in December and the student is not in the journalism class this semester.


This single column is certainly not indicative of the hard-working students who write and paginate The Sting, the student newspaper, which our newspaper prints for them. SRRHS’ journalism program is one of the best in the state, regularly winning awards for writing, layout and design and this year winning first place overall.

The piece in question was not a poorly edited column with a few wayward passages that we could chalk up to youthful naiveté or a misunderstanding of the creative writing process, but rather an entire column lifted word-for-word from the website eCheat.com. Only one relatively inconsequential word had been changed.

Had the column been about scholastic cheating or plagiarism, I would have applauded the student’s delightful grasp of irony — we still would not have run it — but it was about procrastination, which is ironic in its own way, but still amounts to academic cheating.

Plagiarism is not just an academic issue, but has real-world implications.

Monica Crowley, a political columnist recently floated as National Security Agency strategic communications director, has reportedly declined the offer after news reports indicate she plagiarized more than 50 passages in a 2012 book, several of her newspaper columns and a dozen more passages in her 2000 doctoral dissertation from Columbia University.

Many more authors and journalists have lost their jobs or had their books pulled from shelves when found guilty of stealing the ideas of others without attribution.

Just over a year ago, at a Sedona-Oak Creek School District Governing Board meeting on Jan. 12, 2016, Superintendent David Lykins gave a PowerPoint presentation in which, on Slide No. 79 appeared the quote, “‘The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting to keep the old, but rather on building the new.’ D. Lykins.”

However that quote did not originate from Lykins, but rather appeared verbatim on page 130 of “Way of the Peaceful Warrior,” a 1980 novel by self-help author Dan Millman.

Parents and teachers at the meeting discovered the quote was plagiarized almost immediately by using Google on their smartphones, but when we asked him about the source, he doubled down and claimed full credit, writing to us, “The quote I placed on the [PowerPoint] kind of developed over the years is a compilation of lots of change study and other quotes! [sic].”

SRRHS Principal Darrin Karuzas told us last January that the school’s penalties for plagiarism could range from dropping a letter grade to removal from class. Sometimes students must retype the whole SRRHS Academic Integrity Handbook so they understand the serious threat of plagiarism.

Almost a year ago to the day, I questioned through my editorial “Plagiarism rule can’t be enforced under ‘D. Lykins,’” whether plagiarism so easily ignored by the district’s top administrator could lead to a laxity against such cheating among the student body.

In that editorial, I asked, “How can any teacher enforce this policy when the school’s chief administrator steals ideas, passes off other’s work as his own, and violates his district’s own academic integrity?”

It would sadly appear we have our answer.

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