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Ohio U. Student Left In Greece After Alleged Plagiarism

This story was written by Natalie LaConte, The Post

An Ohio University student was left to find her own way home from Greece after being found guilty of plagiarism on a study abroad program at sea.

Allison Routman, an Ohio University senior from Minnesota, along with a student from California Baptist University, were expelled from Semester at Sea, a program sponsored by the University of Virginia, for plagiarizing from Wikipedia.

When we first arrived at the ship, they explained the honor code to everyone, Routman said. But it is a very complex system, especially for those who don't go to U. Va. and are unfamiliar with how it works.

In Routmans Global Studies class, the first essay asked students to compare a film to lectures in class and port experiences. Routman wrote about the film Europa Europa. After watching the film, she used the Web site Wikipedia to verify historical terminology and an overview of the plot.

Routmans professor suspected widespread plagiarism in the class and offered the entire class the opportunity to make a "conscientious retraction," an admission of plagiarism that results in a zero on the assignment.

Having not thought that I had done anything wrong, it naturally did not occur to me to make a statement admitting to something I didn't believe I had done, Routman said.

Routman was notified shortly afterward that she was suspected of violating the honor code. According to Routman, the three phrases she had taken verbatim were "when the Germans attacked the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa"; "German speaking minority outside of Germany"; and "who had just been released from a concentration camp."

Virginias student-run honor code has been in effect for over 200 years. The honor code requires that students pledge not to lie, cheat or steal, knowing that being found guilty once will lead to expulsion.

At Virginia, the process is administered entirely by students, but a panel of professors gave Routman her guilty verdict.I did not have a jury of my peers, Routman said. I did not have an adviser or lawyer to help me through this process.

Jessica Huang, the chair of the Honor Committee at Virginia, said that the student-run aspect of the honor code is hard to implement onboard the Semester at Sea because there arent enough trained committee members. Students on Virginias campus go through rigorous training in order to begin any work within the committee.

There was a lot of thought put into how to make it the most fair, she said, adding that the decision came down to students who arent trained versus faculty who are.

Huang said the honor code committee is always looking to improve the system, adding that any changes made to the honor code at Virginia must be decided on entirely by students in the committee and then voted on by the general student body.

A student member of the honor committee who was participating in the program helped Routman put together an appeal that precisely addressed the issue of an unfair trial because due process was not followed properly, Routman said.

Routmans appeal was denied, and she was dismissed.

She said when students on the ship heard about what had happened, they reacted with petitions, T-shirts and letters directed toward administrators. Routman assembled the packet of students letters and statements and sent it both to the student-life coordinator and to her parents, who forwarded it to Virginias campus back in the U.S.

Because of safety concerns, Routmans parents spoke with administrators to ensure that she did not have to fly out of Egypt. Routman was dropped off at the next port, outside of Athens, Greece, where she was provided with cab fare for transprtation to the airport. Routman slept in the airport until her flight departed the next morning.