Tue, Feb 27, 2007 - Page 9 News List

Wikipedia on an academic hit list

The public can contribute to its entries, and that is only part of the problem for professors who frown on its use in tests

By Noam Cohen  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

"Most were positive about the experience, especially the training in writing encyclopedia articles, which all of them came to realize is not an easy matter," Smith wrote in an e-mail message. "Many also retained their initial ambivalence about Wikipedia itself."

The discussion raised by the Middlebury policy has been covered by student newspapers at the University of Pennsylvania and Tufts, among others. The Middlebury Campus, the student weekly, included an opinion article last week by Chandler Koglmeier that accused the history department of introducing "the beginnings of censorship."

Other students call the move unnecessary. Keith Williams, a senior majoring in economics, said students "understand that Wikipedia is not a responsible source, that it hasn't been thoroughly vetted."

Jason Mittell, an assistant professor of American studies and film and media culture at Middlebury, said he planned to take the pro-Wikipedia side in the campus debate.

"The message that is being sent is that ultimately they see it as a threat to traditional knowledge," he said. "I see it as an opportunity. What does that mean for traditional scholarship? Does traditional scholarship lose value?"

Middlebury professor Thomas Beyer, of the Russian department, said: "I guess I am not terribly impressed by anyone citing an encyclopedia as a reference point, but I am not against using it as a starting point."

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