The first entry was virtually identical to a passage on an education website written by four 11-year-olds for their peers. The second mirrored much of an essay someone posted on Urch.com, a website that helps people prepare for the SAT, GRE and other college entry exams.
Instructor J. Nikol Beckham said she spotted the plagiarism and reported it to the academic support program for student athletes. By then, an NCAA investigation had turned up numerous examples of a tutor providing improper help to football players, and Beckham was concerned the plagiarism went beyond Highsmith and her class.
“I suggested that they consider that this isn’t an isolated incident,” she said, “and I expressed my disappointment considering everything that had been going on for the last year. And I received a great deal of assurances that it would be handled.”
The four investigations into academic fraud at UNC-CH are largely focused on classes within the African and Afro-American Studies Department that never met. But another theme is also emerging as more becomes known about the school work: football players cutting and pasting from various sources to fulfill written assignments.
In Highsmith’s case, Beckham said someone at the academic support program told her they would talk to the student, “but after that, I never heard anything.” She has since left the university to teach at a community college in central Virginia.
Highsmith, a senior wide receiver from Vanceboro, declined to be interviewed, according to Steve Kirschner, an associate athletic director for communications at UNC-CH. Highsmith played every game last season, except for one in which he was held out for an injury.
A copy of the blog posts was not released, however, it may have gone like this:
My mother makes me chicken,
the chicken makes me cough.
I wish that when she made it,
she took the feathers off.
Then again, maybe not.
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