Two Students Kicked off Semester at Sea for Plagiarism

Some question the strict University of Virginia honor code.


An Ohio University student was kicked out of her Semester at Sea program and dropped off in Greece after being accused of plagiarism, according to the Post, the student-run newspaper at OU. Her expulsion, along with the dismissal of a student from California Baptist University, has put the spotlight on the strict, single-sanction honor code enforced by the University of Virginia, which sponsored the program.

OU senior Allison Routman says she was expelled for taking three sentence fragments verbatim from Wikipedia and for paraphrasing a movie synopsis from the site. According to Routman, a day before the papers in question were to be returned to students, the instructor told the class plagiarism was suspected and asked students to come forward and make a "conscientious retraction." Routman says she did not think she had done anything wrong at the time, so she did not come forward. "Had I had any idea I had done something wrong, I would have absolutely come forward," she said.

She was later confronted and expelled. The appeal she mounted was also dismissed.

She says the three phrases she had taken 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."

In response to the incident, students on the ship mounted a letter-writing campaign in which they expressed their "disbelief" over what they called a "shocking...jaw-dropping" decision.

School officials defended the decision, saying that students were well informed about the honor code beforehand. Critics said the expulsion followed a path that was not consistent with the disciplinary system at the University of Virginia. Because of fewer resources, Routman was judged by a panel of professors, as opposed to a panel of her peers, which is the norm at Charlottesville.