Thursday, September 27, 2012

Today's Big Thirsty. "Do you sometimes wish ... "

... they'd just be honest about cheating?

A Thirsty based upon today's exchange with Feigning Frankie:

FF: Omigawd, Dr. Scared, I don't know how TurnYouOut could have said most of my paper was copied. I SWEAR it is all my own work. I take my education seriously. I would NEVER (ever, in infinity years) cheat! I think the similarity might be because of how common the topic was.

Me (not even looking up): It is early in the quarter, so the questions are, yes, somewhat simpler. However, over 98% of the class was able to submit assignments with < 10% marked unoriginal.

FF: Ummmm....

Me (holding last page): Not to change the subject, but just wondering, did you really think eNotes and StudentPapers.com qualify as scholarly sources?

FF: Well ...

Me: And, Frankie, seriously, your opening is a word-for-word cut-and-paste of the list in the last paragraph of the StudentPaper.com page you cited. Then there are several other sentence long lifts from web sources, amounting to about 50% unoriginal content in a 3 page paper.

FF: [crickets]

FIN

Q1: Are you more/less likely to provide any latitude for a student who just admits to plagiarizing, instead of trying to explain it away?  (complexity of explanation notwithstanding) 

Q2: Would your inclination change if you knew you had full support and backing of your administration to crush the little ... darlings?




20 comments:

  1. More likely to be lenient. But not too lenient.

    The department here is fairly willing to crush students. In either case, 'fessing up or not, there will be a penalty (minimum of failing the assignment) and a paper trail letting those in the future know the history. But those who steadfastly deny any knowledge of how the entire wikipedia article on Crepuscular made it into their paper are likely to see formal proceedings, in part because of refusal to accept the first penalty. This is unlikely to result in less than failing the class, and has resulted in dismissal from the college.

    It is possible that someone in the process sort of enjoys removing students, maybe stemming form a feeling that the department is over-enrolled and turning away good students they'd rather not.

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  2. A1: It makes no difference to me. Any student I catch with definite evidence of cheating or plagiarism gets an F for the entire course on the first offense, and I will cancel their registration if the student is foolish enough to try to register for future courses. So far those I've caught in the middle of the term have at least had the decency to stop coming to class after I've caught them, no doubt because I make it clear that it would be pointless for them to continue. If anything, I like when a student snivels like a weasel: it justifies the punishment I mete out clearly, in my own mind.

    A2: So far, I've been able to make every F that I've ever awarded for cheating and plagiarism stick. Only one student has ever been dumb enough to try to contest it, and after I got done yelling at him like a drill sergeant (that stint in the navy paid off in more ways than one), he was reduced to confessing. That said, I always follow the proscribed procedure for reporting cheating and plagiarism to our Incompetent Dean of Students. Invariably, it's like dropping a rose petal into the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo. So, de facto, it makes no difference. I might not get any support from higher-ups, but at least so far I haven't had to deal with their meddling.

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    1. P.S. Students lie so goddamned often, these days I assume everything they say is a lie, unless independently verified. That said, students are so illiterate, innumerate, lacking in critical thinking ability, and sloppy, these days I assume everything they say that isn't a lie is an error, unless independently verified. To my sheer horror, I find I am usually right.

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  3. Y'all have a lot of power. I have none -- if I suspect plagiarism I forward it to the Ministry of Few Consequences and they determine guilt or innocence and the penalty (I'm allowed to give the paper an F or a zero if they find the student guilty, and that's it). I hear tell that they are easier on students who confess and give some sob story about how my class is so hard or I am so mean. When the Ministry tells me such tales I am always furious and provide a paper trail of polite, helpful e-mails, my office visit log, and/or the fact that the student had a solid B in my class before the plagiarism. They are lucky there is a Ministry, because I'd fail them for the entire class.

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    1. F&T: That sounds absolutely horrid. You have my sympathy.

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    2. Thanks, Bubba! The non-horrid part is that it's absolutely no work for me. I just forward things to the Ministry.

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    3. For me, catching a plagiarist and choosing to turn them in meant AT LEAST 3 hours (stretched over at least 3 days to a week) of meetings, paperwork, memos, and gathering & documentation of evidence. PER CASE.

      Just turning evidence into an ineffectual Ministry would have been a blessing. So would turning a blind eye... wish I could.

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  4. A1: No. I have caught more than one who came into my office, shrugged their way through our interview. The System statutes make it clear what kinds of penalties I can assign for different types of infractions, but wholesale copying gets an automatic zero on the assignment, which, depending on the points available, usually results in a non-passing grade. A letter (drafted by the professor who gives the zero) is also placed in the student's permanent file. What effect that actually has, I have no idea.

    That said, when it is a genuine error (such as the student not fully understanding the MLA format, etc.), the student gets a chance to correct the errors, at my discretion.

    A2: No. I would prosecute cheating whether I had institutional support (and I do) or not. It's a matter of ethics.

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    1. Agreed -- the only place I try to split hairs regarding plagiarism/cheating is when I determine if the problem lies with citation issues or flat-out theft. But I have good contacts with the writing department, and I am intimately familiar with what the kiddies should be learning in their basic composition courses, so it's usually safe to presume that citation confusion is not to blame for major problems. If they give credit where credit is due, even if their list of "citations" is a bunch of URLs in a numbered list (wtf), they get the benefit of the doubt and a recommendation to brush up on their MLA/APA at the writing center.

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  5. In other areas I tend to be a hardass, but I take it easy on cheating. Being the premise that my students are idiots, it follows that they are going to do idiotic things, and nobody should be surprised.
    My leniency in this may come from the fact that I come from a different system, thou. Back in the ole' country it was pretty much assumed that you would bring auxiliary materials to the exams. The professor proctoring the exam would leave the room so we could use it without embarrassment.
    Fail rate was always about 70% anyway. Retention was not an issue, weeding out morons was. (Nostalgia)

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  6. A1: I have never had a student admit to cheating. They will hold the paper in their hands with a look of disbelief saying, "But I don't know what you are talking about!" After all, the little darling could not have done anything wrong.

    I only submit the paperwork when there is no doubt about cheating. If I think I'm light on evidence then I just reduce the grade and attach copies of the suspected sources to the original. No student has ever come back to defend their actions.

    A2: I'm lucky to be at a uni that demands students be charged when caught. They have backed me in every case I submitted.

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  7. At my last uni, we had almost zero support if we caught a plagiarist. Plagiarism can only make you fail a class if it's a second offense and the first offense has been properly documented.

    I once took a plagiarist to trial (it was his second offense), where his fate was decided by some sort of board consisting of half students, half faculty. He pleaded that he was a freshman and didn't know better. And the students on the board completely sympathized, almost ready to let him off scot-free. The only thing that changed their minds was, thank goodness, the fact that the kid had asked me for a recommendation letter based on his stellar writing. That, the students fortunately realized, meant that he sure as hell knew better.

    I was allowed to give him an F for the class.

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  8. Joining the chorus of people who have no power to fail a student for plagiarism. I have to forward my cases to an administrator, who does this weak Vic Mackey/Jack Bauer impression and makes them cry, but ultimately lets them off with a warning unless it's really bad. If it's really bad, then he forwards it to some kangaroo court made up of faculty and students. Administrator recommends that we don't do that, because it just sucks up time and usually results in some bullshit ceremonious written warning.

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    1. Oh, and the thing that pisses me off most about this is the fact that it wrecks evaluations. When plagiarists are allowed to complete the rest of the semester, they stick around to fill out some of the most heinous evaluations I've ever seen.

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    2. I am surprised by these tales of students being lenient on the board of enquiry. The one time I had a student who went to one, which meant I had to attend, the student representatives were way more hard-line than the faculty.

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  9. I destroy them. And then if it comes back to me, I cry "academic freedom".

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  10. If a student ever says "it's a fair cop" I will have to consider this question. So far, it hasn't come up. Most of them go to the "well, to be honest with you, I asked my buddy to help me out, and I had no idea he was a plagiarist" excuse. Of course, if you ask if the buddy is a student at the institution (which would make him reportable under the Cheat Code), he evaporates.

    My institution is ultra supportive, with an Office of Cheating run by someone way more of a hardass than my "when students cheat it is probably the fault of the instructor for not loving them enough" Chair. Ever since he majorly messed up a cheating case I took to him by trying to bargain with the student, I just don't bother letting him know about the cheats, and they go right up the chain.

    My favourite is when the cheater says I am ruining his life by reporting him.

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