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Plagiarism is the ultimate sin among writing professionals and academics, including both teachers and students at colleges and universities. Somehow, however, there is a growing nonchalance about the practice that is disturbing.

At Southern Utah University there is evidence that students in an English as a Second Language program were allowed to plagiarize material for papers and tests without being held to account. Their teachers apparently did not report the violations and some did not even refuse to give a grade on a plagiarized paper.

That is inexcusable. Just as bad is that another instructor who reported the plagiarism and resigned, saying she was disgusted at the lack of action to prevent it and to punish those who practice or condone it, has now been accused of stealing plagiarized papers in order to shed light on the practice. She has been barred from the campus of SUU, a public university, though there is no legal authority to keep her away.

Plagiarism is theft of the worst kind: stealing another person's written ideas and claiming ownership of them. The Internet and other technology makes it easier than ever for students to find material on any subject, copy it and paste it into papers they are writing to fill assignments without citing the source.

Teachers must be more diligent in recognizing when a student's work contains writing that does not fit with that student's skill level. Just as there are many more ways today to plagiarize, there are ways to detect stolen work.

Plagiarism should never be tolerated and merits severe punishment. If students are led to believe plagiarism is acceptable, they will continue to disrespect the work of others and look for an easy way around an assignment. That's a waste of time and tuition. Their teachers are not doing them a favor by allowing them to get away with it. Continuing the practice once they are hired in business or a writing profession would get them fired and could even land them in prison.

Students might copy others' work because they are lazy or facing a looming deadline they feel they can't meet without resorting to this abhorrent practice. It's the responsibility of teachers and administrators to educate their students about what plagiarism is and that they will be punished for it.

SUU's policy is clear: The university does not tolerate plagiarism.

Administrators must impress both instructors and students that the university will enforce that policy.