Cedar City, UT – Southern Utah University is investigating allegations that its English as a Second Language Program tolerated widespread plagiarism by students.
The investigation was triggered by the resignation of instructor Belinda Frost from the program at the Cedar City, Utah school. The program was designed to help international students, many from Saudi Arabia, prepare for college-level work.
Frost estimated that 20 percent of the writing assignments she graded contained unattributed material from common internet sources.
Frost said the clues included unusual choices of American slang or adjectives a Saudi student was not likely to know.
She also said suspected cheaters passed plagiarized passages through Google Translate.
Frost said she regularly failed the students in question and reported the incidents of cheating to supervisors, but students were rarely disciplined. The students advanced to the next level of instruction, and some even enrolled as full-time undergraduate students.
The plagiarism incident that forced Frost to leave the school, she said, was a B+ grade, given by another teacher, on a paper that had been almost entirely copied from Wikipedia.
In her letter of resignation, she said the incident was “indicative of the lack of standards in our program.”
The dean of continuing and professional studies, Mark Atkinson, is preparing a report on the alleged plagiarism. He is also preparing an analysis of the qualifications of the teachers in the program.
Belinda Frost said there are about 200 students in the ESL program, many of whom are Saudi citizens whose educations are paid for by their government. The school makes up to $20,000 in revenue per student from the program.