KU renews anti-plagiarism software subscription

After an outcry from faculty and teachers, Kansas University has decided not to cancel its subscription to a popular online tool for spotting plagiarism.

“I’m delighted,” said Tim Miller, professor and interim chairman of religious studies. “I think that plagiarism is a very serious problem, and I think we need to be alert in trying to stop it.”

KU officials alarmed faculty and lecturers last month when word spread that the university would not renew its subscription to Turnitin.com, a computerized plagiarism-detection service. KU officials cited the $22,000 cost and copyright concerns.

But those issues apparently have been resolved. KU and Turnitin.com representatives said Tuesday that the subscription would be renewed for not only one year but two.

KU spokeswoman Lynn Bretz said Turnitin.com had requested the university not disclose the negotiated price. But she said because KU is a public university, it will release the cost in a few days once the contract is official.

Turnitin.com works by scanning student papers and comparing the content with information found on the Internet and in databases of student work, journals and periodicals. Because Turnitin.com retains student papers, the service has raised intellectual property and copyright issues.

But on Tuesday, Bretz said Turnitin.com addressed the issue by agreeing to remove papers from the database if requested by the KU Writing Center, which administers the service for KU.

“We’re pleased with the resolution of the cost concerns and the intellectual property concerns,” Bretz said.

The service has 364 registered users at KU. It has been used to scan tens of thousands of KU students’ papers over the years, according to Turnitin.com.

KU officials have pointed out that the service’s cost has climbed from $6,000 when KU first subscribed.

But John Barrie, chief executive of Turnitin.com’s parent company iParadigms, said KU received the service at reduced cost because it was among the first institutions to subscribe.

“We gave them a smoking deal to be one of our first clients,” he said. “We do want to give them a discount for being one of our pioneering clients.”

KU faculty who rely on Turnitin.com to deter and detect plagiarism breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday.

“I’m very pleased,” political science professor Phil Schrodt said. “The fact that they’ve changed their mind is quite satisfactory for me.”