Thursday, December 9, 2010

Conversation with a Plagiarizing Student

Student: I don't understand why I got a zero for the final essay. It says here I plagiarized. That's so unfair. I worked very hard on this. You can ask my mother if you don't believe me.

Me: This entire part of your essay was copy-pasted from a website.

Student (raising her voice): What??? I never copy-pasted anything from any website. I wrote that myself. You can ask my mother who saw me work on the essay all night long.

Me: So you are telling me this is not copy-pasted from a website?

Student (almost yelling): I would never! Of course, not!!

Me: OK, let's enter this passage into Google Search. Oh, look what I found. Here is your passage verbatim on this website.

Student (starting to cry): Well, but the rest of the essay is good. I worked all night long. I don't deserve a bad grade for this.

Me: So you recognize that you plagiarized?

Student (sobbing and waving hands in my face): I never plagiarize!! You can ask my mother! She will tell you how hard I worked on this essay.

Me: Did we not just find this very text on a website?

Student: So? I worked hard! My mother. . .

Me: Copy-pasting from a website is not plagiarism?

Student (shrieking): I hate this course! I didn't understand anything you ever said in class. And I didn't understand any of the readings either.

Me: I'm surprised that I'm only hearing this now, on the last day of classes. Why did you never come to my ofiice hours, asked any questions in class, or emailed me to share your difficulties with the course?

Student (yelling at the top of her lungs at this point): Because what's the point if you are going to accuse me of plagiarism anyways? Why are you yelling at me anyways?

Me: What do you mean "accuse"? Didn't we just discover this entire passage verbatim on a website?

Student: This is so wrong! I worked hard!!!! Just ask my mother!

After which the student storms out of my office. My blood pressure goes through the roof and my hands are shaking. A colleague passing by sees me, looks scared, and asks if I need to be driven to the hospital. I later see the cheating student in the hallway complaining to other professors that bad, mean, horrible me dared to fail her for being a plagiarist.


Anonymous said...

She probably thinks that if she delivers enough sound and fury that you will give in. It is ridiculous to me that she would actually complain to other professors...they now know that she was plagiarizing as well.

It's just so lazy to copy and paste; and it's stealing.


Izgad said...

At Ohio State we are not allowed to directly accuse students of plagiarism. If we have evidence of it we are supposed to pass it on to a board and let them take it from there.

Pagan Topologist said...

Izgad, does the board follow up on such incidents?

Clarissa said...

Izgad: so what grade are you supposed to give to a plagiarized essay while the board does its thing?

We have a very small window of time between the final exams and the date when we have to submit final grades. There is no board in the world that will be able to investigate all those cases of plagiarism in all courses in less than one week.

Anonymous said...

I had a scene like this this week, although not as bad. I feel very upset from these incidents and I am glad I am not the only one.

Anonymous said...

I had a scene like this this week, although not as bad. I feel very upset from these incidents and I am glad I am not the only one.

Izgad said...

When we catch a student we are supposed to give him the grade he would have gotten if the work was honest. The board is free to change the grade later. I have yet to catch a student so I do not know how effective the board is.

Clarissa said...

Izgad: I hope that as a true Libertalian you are really angry that the Big Brother board is getting between teachers and students and reserves the right to change or not grades in the courses members of the board don't even know how to teach. :-)

Melissa said...


Sorry that happened to you. I'm not sure what part of "You plagiarized, therefore you got a 0" is so difficult to understand...

And also..."ask my mother"??? Sure, I'll ask the one person most likely to lie on your behalf. That's a great idea.

Clarissa said...

Melissa: I should have responded: "Let your mother call my mother and they will discuss how we both worked hard on this course. And then they will decide what grade to give here since you and I are such babies that we can't figure it out without our mothers." :-)

Izgad said...

I do not object to private organizations setting rules to how they wish to operate their own private affairs. I am an employee of the university and I agree to do the job that they hired me for. They did not hire me to prosecute students for cheating so I am willing to let them handle it as they see fit. If they ever were to make me give a grade to a student who did not deserve it, I would resign on the spot.