Wednesday, September 22, 2010

When you stretch the truth, watch out for the snapback!

It's been quite a week for lies and the lying liars who tell them in my classes:

1. ESL Elliott, telling me that you lifted two complete paragraphs from a website to explain Homer's poetry because English isn't your first language and you couldn't find the right words to express yourself is not going to fly. You have made it through Comp I and Comp II here at Large Urban Community College, both of which cover plagiarism in detail. I have this incredible machine on my desk that even lets me see which instructors you took, so I know from personal observation that they taught you well. Yes, you DID mean to cheat. I'll see you in my chair's office when you appeal the F you just earned.

2. Super Student Sally, telling me you are "an A/B student" and that I am too hard because I won't give you points for a misspelled answer is not going to get you anywhere either. Again, there is this wonderful tool on my desk that seems to serve as a lie detector. It gives me access to your transcript, where I can see that you are in fact barely a C student and that you regularly attend our sister school, Easier, Smaller Urban Community College. If you earned C grades there, you are probably not going to pass here. Oh, and only a tiny fraction of the population can successfully work full time, go to school full time (which you're not--yet again, that magic machine on my desk ratted you out), and raise three kids under the age of 6. What else are you lying to me about?

3. Imploding Online Work Group, get your act together and don't lie to me about the work you've done. I told you up front there would be a collaborative project in this course and if you couldn't deal with online collaboration to get out and take the course in the classroom. While you were in the chat room whining about how unfair it was you had to do this type of project because your schedules are so complicated and how you didn't understand what I wanted, guess who was online the whole time? Did you ask me to attend your group chat, which you knew I'd gladly do because I said so? Did you email me with any questions about the project? Did you IM me when you saw I was online? How about coming to campus for those office hours? No? Then STFU, don't email me after the fact and kiss my butt expecting me to deal with your slacker member issues, and keep in mind that all chats are logged. I can see if you're working and what you talked about. Oh, and that "slacker"? He has put in more work on the class than all but one of your group members. One more time, that magic machine gives me superpowers to see if you've been naughty or nice in Blackboard. Yes, your teammate has a serious attitude problem, but if you'd dealt with it using the techniques I gave you, you probably would not be in the mess you've made.


  1. "slacker member issues"--lololololol! Oh, that one took me by surprise. Isn't there a little blue pill for that?

    (wiping tears of laughter outta eyes): Gosh, I needed that this morning. This site never fails to inspire SOME sort of visceral response in me!

  2. ESL Elliott sounds like my own Plagiarizing Paula, who claimed that what she did was allowable back in her mother country (lifting MANY paragraphs, verbatim).

    Uh huh, but uh uh. Off to Student Affairs and a suspension.

  3. Not to defend the flakes--and believe me, I'm not--but there's actually some legitimacy to the excuse "I'm allowed to plagiarize in my home country."

    Some. Not a lot.

    Different countries have different methods of citing, etc., and for some students, things like facts and definitions and background research were really taught as things to copy and not to learn and write about.

    Granted, you have to hold them to the same standards as your American-born students, so this isn't a valid excuse, and the punishment is warranted. But it's the reason my former grad school now has an orientation session detailing exactly what one is, and isn't, allowed to do citation-wise in America. Before they included this session, they had problems every now and then with honestly-well-intentioned grad students getting in trouble for doing things they thought were okay.

  4. "I'm allowed to plagiarize because of my culture" would fly if I were not teaching a sophomore-level course. We cover plagiarism in painstaking detail in our Comp I and II courses. Elliott took both of them here, so I know he knows the rules.

    I caught him again yesterday. This time he swears that he just happened to have come up with the exact same wording and ideas as the site I Googled. I can tell every single time precisely because English is not his first language. When he writes his own thoughts, his sentence patterns reflect some of the common ELL errors and don't contain nearly as many adjectives and subordinate clauses. When he plagiarizes, all of a sudden sentences become complex with correct syntax. What's particularly funny about this time is that it was for The Iliad, and the site he chose misspelled Virgil. That misspelling came through on the posts as well. Yeah, he came up with that all on his own, particularly since he seemed able to spell it correctly on the last Iliad assignment.

  5. Just as a quick addendum: Plagiarizing Paula also told me that she had intended to rewrite what she had copied, but that she forgot and had run out of time. Thus, she knew that she had done wrong, in contrast with her earlier statement that this was the way they did it in "Mother Country".


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