Plagiarism hunt targets students and staff

? First, they went after the business school dean’s welcome message on a university Web site.

Then they raised questions about other professors’ academic work, a speech by one chancellor, and then of another chancellor – all the way up to questioning the university president’s Web site.

This crusade to out alleged plagiarizers at Southern Illinois University has continued for more than a year now and is being waged by a group of alumni and professors with an ax to grind. They have named themselves Alumni and Faculty Against Corruption at SIU.

The plagiarism watch coincides, some university administrators say, with more complaints about student plagiarism, likely fueled by the Internet and the ease of cutting and pasting. Many schools, including some departments at SIU Carbondale and SIU Edwardsville, use anti-plagiarism software to check student papers for possible infractions. It appears that these tools are now being used to check on administrators and colleagues.

The SIU group’s campaign has raised a debate among academics about the degrees and definition of plagiarism – when it is forgivable and when it is a firing offense.