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I am TAing for a CS course. The professor I am TAing for, I took the same course with him one year ago. In that semester and this current semester I am TAing, he has been taking lecture slides and simply relabeling the headers with our school name and date. Furthermore, this may be somewhat of a lesser problem, but he is also using material that can be found online from other schools for the exams and homework.

Question is: Is this practice allowed and should I say/do anything about this?

Update: Professor blatantly just told me that it's perfectly fine to do this. I did not want to make a confrontation so I didn't oppose what he said.

  • I think you've got it backward, the reusing of exams easily found online is a bit more of a problem than putting your school's name on the files – Azor Ahai -- he him Oct 29 '18 at 21:23
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    I doubt anyone will care. But are you sure the website is the origin of the slides, as opposed to both your professor and the website using the same materials from a third source like a textbook? – A Simple Algorithm Oct 29 '18 at 23:12
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    @lym03 not sure you get my point when you say "clearly the same". Textbooks often literally come with free powerpoint slides for instructors to use. Of course they are the same if two different instructors use them. And if he is an adjunct as you imply, he also probably gets very little money for teaching the class. As for time, your only complaint is he is not properly citing the slides he uses. That takes negligible time. The creation/use of original teaching materials is never a requirement of a lecturer or professor (that I've ever heard). – A Simple Algorithm Oct 29 '18 at 23:33
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    @lym03 yes that's often why people place them on the internet. It's also ok for teachers to use all kinds of other copyrighted materials under "fair use", which prominently includes education purposes. – A Simple Algorithm Oct 29 '18 at 23:39
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    I would worry more about the quality of instruction than the source of the materials. If it is a terrible course it doesn't matter where the materials came from. If it is a great course, don't be too fierce in your condemnation. Professors have shared ideas and materials since, I assume, Plato. I always expected (hoped) that the materials I put on the web would be useful beyond my own courses. Acknowledgement is nice, of course. – Buffy Oct 30 '18 at 0:09
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This sounds like plagiarism, and if true, would be something I'd do something about. After all, if the professor does not lead by example, it's hard to imagine students will not plagiarize either.

I'd speak to the professor first, failing which I'd speak to the head of department.

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    It's a bit daunting.. I'd hate to ruin my relationship with him, especially as a mentor. – user1394 Oct 29 '18 at 21:52
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    @lym03 don't accuse him of plagiarism, say something like "I notice you do so-and-so, do you think that's plagiarism?" – Allure Oct 29 '18 at 22:46
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What you describe is over the top. However, it is quite common for professors to take material from other courses or textbooks. Preparing a course from scratch is a lot of work and that work is unnecessary if there are already courses online with similar material. Usually, the professor will combine several sources and/or add in some of their own material, rather than straight copying.

The professor should acknowledge the source of the material. I often see course websites list textbooks or similar courses at other universities. Invariably, much of the course material will be sourced from those textbooks and those other courses.

However, you say that your professor is also copying exams from this other course. This is dangerous if a student figures out the source. I think this is actually the bigger problem. This may also explain why the professor may be reluctant to name the source of the material.

TL;DR: The practice is allowed to a certain extent, but it sounds like this case is possibly excessive. In your situation, I would tell the professor that you found similar exams online and are worried that the students will find them too, but I would avoid making any accusation of plagiarism.

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    Actually, it is quite common for professors to share their materials explicitly. – Buffy Oct 30 '18 at 0:05
  • @Buffy So you are saying I should leave it be? – user1394 Oct 30 '18 at 3:02
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    @lym03, actually, more like "tread carefully". It may not be as it seems. – Buffy Oct 30 '18 at 11:35

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