Chantel Teng/The Varsity

A course instructor in the Department of Earth Sciences has been accused of plagiarism. While the accusations have been brought forward to the department, some students maintain that the issue has not been properly addressed. 

The accused, Tugce Sahin, is a PhD candidate in geology and Earth sciences. She is currently teaching the ENV233 course, “Earth System Chemistry.”   

According to Justin*, a student in the class, Sahin’s lecture slides are taken from material produced at other universities; in some cases, this includes fourth-year course material, which he considers to be inappropriate for a second-year class. 

“Not only is there detail [in the slides] that [students] should not have to understand, but also detail that the lecturer herself does not understand,” stated Justin. “I and the class strongly believe that she doesn’t have enough of a chemistry and mathematical background to teach the course,” he added.    

Justin grew suspicious after he noticed that the syntax in the lecture slides was not consistent with Sahin’s own style. He copied and pasted the text into a search engine and quickly found the source. “I found some from a professor in the University of California, I found some from a professor in Memorial University, I found some in books online… lots of places,” he said.

Justin alleged that students did not raise their concerns directly to the lecturer, but that they did point out mistakes that she made. “At first she listened but then after that she started resenting it and said ‘Just look in your book, I know I’m doing it right.’”

In order to resolve these issues, three students brought a petition signed by reportedly 12 students to David Powell, the undergraduate student advisor and placement coordinator for the U of T School of Environment.

Justin said that the students showed Powell quizzes and assignments that they believed to have been marked incorrectly, as well as lecture slides which were allegedly unsourced and plagiarized verbatim.   

After Powell raised the issue with the chair of the Earth sciences department, the lecture slides were re-uploaded with a reference slide at the end. Justin still considers this change to be unsatisfactory. “The content of the slides had not changed; it was still plagiarized in my view. It was still exactly the same, taken from the source,” he said.

In addition to the changes to the presentation, the course midterm was bumped up by 25 per cent and a guest lecturer was brought in for half of the remaining lectures.    

“In my personal opinion, [the changes] haven’t done much for me,” said Joanna*, another student in the class. “The current lecturer is still there and the mark is still there as a poor reflection. I feel it should have been addressed earlier to avoid poor academic performance.”   

Like Justin, she also believes that the content of the slides weren’t changed apart from the addition of a slide with references. “Well, there was one point where all the notes were removed from blackboard,” she commented, “and then a couple of days later, it was reloaded but… it looked the same.” 

“She did add sources though at the end to ‘reference’, but I’m not sure how accurate those citations were,” said Joanna.

Joanna said that she is unsure as to whether or not the current professor will be replaced.

While the administration declined to comment, according to Justin, an email was sent out to students on Thursday saying that going to The Varsity and “spreading incorrect and potentially defamatory information is not a constructive way to resolve issues. It could be construed as bullying under the code of student conduct and, depending on what is written, might also be regarded as libel.” The class was also invited to a meeting to address any further concerns. 

Sahin did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment.

*Name changed at individual’s request.

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