Computer science senior Nam Vu is being held accountable for cheating after a classmate copied his project that he posted online for potential employers to see.
The office of Student Advocacy and Accountability decided Vu is responsible for violating the University’s code of conduct and he will receive a mark on his transcript despite his attempt to appeal Friday, March 16.
“It’s just not fair,” Vu said. “I don’t think the mistake was even that significant to be honest.”
When contacted about Vu’s case, the office of Student Advocacy and Accountability said to refer to their website for any questions or concerns regarding the accountability process, policy and procedures. SAA is required by federal law to follow the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, which prevents the University from sharing a students educational records with anyone other than that student, or their designated guardian should they choose one.
Vu said SAA officials told him that it is a learning process, but he believes he has learned enough already going through the process of trying to appeal.
“The reason why all this happened at all is because I’m enthusiastic about the subject,” Vu said. “A lot of students would just finish the homework and that’s it. I’m so enthusiastic about computer science that I’m posting my work on my personal portfolio. I’m not only showcasing my work, I’m showcasing what we’re doing here at LSU, and yet that is the reason why I’m being punished.”
This is Vu’s seventh year in college as he is pursuing a second degree.
After attempting to negotiate with the office, Vu has decided to accept responsibility and write the required essay on discipline because he does not have the time to continue advocating his case, he said.
“It hurt me emotionally,” Vu said. “Discipline has always been my number one priority. Everyone who knows me knows that my number one goal is to become a professor and the first thing I will teach my students is discipline.”
Along with work and school he is also balancing job interviews. After learning about his case, the Cajun Navy offered Vu a job.
“Throughout the process, what I’ve learned is that the SAA office has been using the code of conduct to sort of exploit the vulnerability of a student. I don’t know how many students can say they have read the code word for word and understand every aspect. I think that’s something LSU needs to change because it’s not a good look for the school if a student like me who breathes computer science to have something like this happen to me.”
An online post by computer science senior Nam Vu has resulted in Vu receiving a failing grade on a project and a permanent mark on his transcript after another student in the class found his GitHub account and turned in his project without changing anything.
Vu uploaded his code online intending for it to be seen by potential employers during prime season for job hunting; however, this code was also a project due the next day in his system programming class.
Vu started a petition on Change.org titled, “Reverse unfair treatment for a dedicated student at LSU” in hopes of changing the way the University deals with cases like his. It currently has over 500 signatures.
Vu posted his project the day before it was due on GitHub, a popular tool for managing, showcasing and collaborating on code.
“It is right around the time of job hunting,” Vu said. “I’m putting it on there for employers to see. I didn’t really think that people would try to access it.”
GitHub is emerging as a collaborative learning platform and is beginning to replace certain aspects of traditional management systems like Moodle, according to software developer Alexey Zagalsky.
Vu is being held responsible by the office of Student Advocacy & Accountability for violating the University code of student conduct that states, “Copying from another Student’s academic work; assisting with Copying by making answers or other completed assignments available, in whole or part, to another Student, whether or not the recipient’s intentions to copy were known to the Student prior to the sharing.”
The office of Student Advocacy & Accountability did not respond to The Daily Reveille’s requests for comment by the time of publication.
Vu feels he is being treated unfairly because he had no intention of letting someone copy his work.
“Based on the information, I reached preponderance that you put your assignment on the internet before the assignment was due for anyone to access,” the individual handling the case from the office of Student Advocacy & Accountability told Vu. “Because I believe that you did your own work and plan to graduate in May, I have mitigated the outcome to one semester on disciplinary probation and for the transcript notation. I hope that the ethics and decision making video review will help you reflect on your decision-making and the role that played in this incident.”
Vu believes he can bounce back from the failing grade he received on the project but not from the mark on his transcript.
“When employers or another school is looking at my transcript, it really represents who I am as a person,” Vu said. “If you wrongly put a mark on my transcript that doesn’t clarify what I did, it is in a way assassinating my character.”
Vu tutored many other computer science students for free during his years at the University.
“This is something they should take into account when they make a decision that could change the life of somebody,” Vu said.
Vu believes no dedicated student should be treated this way and that the office of Student Advocacy & Accountability should deal with situations like this on a case-by-case basis.
He is currently in the process of appealing this decision and has a hearing scheduled for this Friday at 1:30 p.m. at the LSU Student Union on the third floor, SAA Office Suite 340.
If Vu does not agree with the outcome, he has the option to take his case to the dean if he has new evidence.
“The situation makes me very angry because I’ve done all of my work,” Vu said. “It wasn’t that I actually had any intent to let somebody else copy my work.”