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UF student fired from internship for plagiarism

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Posted: Wednesday, July 8, 2009 12:00 am

After plagiarizing passages from The New York Times in four of her news stories, a UF student was fired Tuesday from her internship at The Colorado Springs Gazette.

Hailey Mac Arthur, who will enter her third year in August, could face expulsion from the College of Journalism and Communications if the College's investigation confirms the plagiarism, said William McKeen, chair of the journalism department.

Mac Arthur formerly wrote for The Independent Florida Alligator and interned at The Gainesville Sun.

Journalism and Communications Dean John Wright said in an interview that journalism students are repeatedly warned against plagiarism.

"For the life of me, I don't see how this kind of thing could happen in this day and age," he said. "Even if the person felt compelled to do something so dishonest… I'm totally baffled."

News of the firing reached blogs and The Associated Press by Tuesday night. Some journalism professors received e-mails about the incident on Wednesday morning, prompting them to quickly and firmly announce the College's stance against plagiarism in classes and on Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

Tuesday afternoon, Wright posted as his Facebook status, "One thing is certain. Plagiarism will not be tolerated at the College of Journalism and Communications."

Meredith Cochie, adjunct lecturer at the journalism college, discussed the issue in her class and posted it on the class blog so students could discuss it.

Wright said that all colleges fight student plagiarism on school work, but this is the first time since Wright became dean a year and a-half ago that a UF student has been exposed for something of this magnitude.

McKeen, who will meet with Mac Arthur to discuss possible consequences, said he takes plagiarism as a "personal insult" and that plagiarism by a student causes concern over the value of a degree from the College.

After discovering the plagiarized passages, The Colorado Springs Gazette issued a public apology on the paper's Web site, with links to the plagiarized Times passages. Links to Mac Arthur's offending stories were deactivated.

Editor Jeff Thomas said the newsroom got a tip Tuesday morning that a passage in Mac Arthur's story had been published in the Times only a week before.

"It does not take a lot of sleuthing on the part of anybody to follow up on a tip and find out whether something has been borrowed from The New York Times," he said.

Mac Arthur was unpaid, but she interned for college credit, he said.

"I wouldn't presume to tell the school how to resolve this one way or another," he said. "I certainly have to believe that the university doesn't tolerate plagiarism. Whether that same standard applies to an internship setting, I don't know."

Mac Arthur was not available for comment.

The Colorado Springs Gazette's editorial can be found here.

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