Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Christmas Present from Cheating Charlene

Like my name,
and some periods.
Okay, so I've read the nice "Christmas Miracle" post and I thought about the great students I've had over the years and smiled.  Hugs all around!

And maybe I'm just a Grinch, but to get back to the misery-----I had a little Christmas Miracle present of another kind.  And it really made my day!

Charlene is my age, and from a rough background.  For some reason, this type of student (my age, female, from a rough background)-----is exactly the type to really push me to the edge.  She was hostile, lazy, and always just on the safe side of over the limit.  She knew how to play the game.  And she was playing it.  We had a battle going on about everything----her class participation grade, every single tea partying quiz answer, whether she did or did not hand it this or that.  And the list goes on.  She showed up an hour late to the final exam, handed in her final essay, and told me she expected to pass the class since she had received a B+ on her research essay (worth a hefty part of her grade).  I told her that was not going to happen because of her poor grades in other things.  She told me she was going to ask for a formal review of her grades, all of them, and that she had copies of everything and was going to go through the whole process.  She obviously knows the whole process.



Now, I was not worried about her winning.  No,  I have all my i's dotted and my t's crossed.  I've seen this coming.  But she was going to make my life a little miserable, and over the break, too.   I actually considered just giving her the tea partying C she wanted.  But no, I wasn't really going to do it, I just thought about how much easier that would be.

Then, as the dust cleared and I was home in front of my fire at 3am this morning, I thought about that B+ on the research essay.  Hmmmmm.  This is what happened.  Her essay was one of the last ones I corrected, and my laptop died as I was correcting it.  My plagiarism inner bells had not gone off, but I would have run sentences from that paper through Google otherwise, (I collect essays hard copy, and then type suspect prose into Google----it works pretty well), simply on the principle that I could not stand this woman.  I thought about doing it quickly before class, but I hit traffic, and her first essay I had carefully checked and not found anything, so.  I just let it go.  A B+ for her.  Huzzah.

Suddenly, her uncorrected final essay gleamed at me in the firelight like a divine message.  I picked up the essay, and typed in the first sentence.

And it was the bestest Christmas gift she could have given me!  There that first sentence was,and there her entire essay was, on this web page.

I won't give any more of the web address, but if you look around on that site, obviously there's some secret handshake for the snowflakes to come find "free" essays.  That is, unless they end up having to pay the price.

Sweet relief.  The plagiarism policy at my college is plain as day, in the handbook and on my syllabus.  This has become an open and shut case.  

Thank you very much, Charlene!  That was so thoughtful of you!


31 comments:

  1. Sometimes there is justice in this world.

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  2. I am amazed that the student would feel so entitled to passing the course based on work that wasn't her own.

    Oh, wait, no I'm not. This doesn't surprise me one little bit.

    I'm glad you found what you needed to cover your ass. I had a similar situation a couple years ago where a student's final exam "went missing" (read: was stolen by the student). However, we couldn't prove it, but I found that they had copied their assignments word for word from a classmate and busted them on a plagiarism charge. Teehee.

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  4. I like when the WHOLE essay is found on one page. That's my favorite. I occasionally get someone who actually does a LOT of work to cheat, putting together an essay from multiple essay mills.

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    1. Right, Darla. I haven't gotten a one-page wonder in years. Splicing is far more common these days.

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  5. I've got one student who's probably going to end up with a D or F (not the C he needs to fulfill a graduation requirement) because he simply hasn't done the online part of a hybrid class (and has ignored most of the in-class portions of a group project as well). He hasn't given me the gift of plagiarism (though I will check), but I was amused/relieved to see yesterday, in one of his very few online posts, him citing the press of "fraternity business" as a reason for neglecting group work. That's a bit different from the story I've been getting in office hours, which revolves around his working very hard in a health-services job, and his "not being able to afford" to retake the class. From what I understand, fraternity membership can be expensive as well as time-consuming. If he had the time and the money, no problem; I don't think fraternity activities are a particularly good way to spend either, but we all get to choose our time- and money-wasters, and I have a few of my own. But under the circumstances, I'm feeling a bit less guilty about forcing a quite charming, and probably genuinely kind, young man to retake the class I teach. I wonder if the fraternity has a GPA requirement for participation? If so, he may have a bit more free time, and a bit more available money, next semester.

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    1. He hasn't given me the gift of plagiarism...

      In German, "Gift" means "poison." So this is a great double meaning in the context of this story.

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  6. Did you check the submission date of the essay, Bella? A similar thing happened to me: While grading final exams, I did a plagiarism check and found a student's paper entire paper on a similar site. In the spirit of righteous vengeance, I prepared to Lay The Smack Down but, as I collected the evidence, I realized that the online version had been submitted after the assignment was due. Whaddya know...my student was the one who uploaded the paper.

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    1. I'm tempted to say that a student who contributes to such sites deserves to get slammed anyway, but yes, unless Bella's school has a very strict honor code (one which covers condoning and/or abetting cheating, or something along those lines), it's worth checking.

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    2. Well, the essay is dated from last year and has a name attached to it as author----not my student. So I think I am in the clear!!

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    3. Sounds like it. Even if the student herself had written it last year, there'd be a problem.

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  7. Excellent. There's very little that is more satisfying than catching a plagiarist, especially one who has also been a pain in the butt all semester long. It's like an early holiday gift.

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  8. I used to teach a drafting course and I often had students who thought they could pull a fast one on me. For the first 2 years, they got away with it because I was a probie and I didn't want to cause too much of an uproar.

    Then, shortly after I was made permanent, I had a pair of characters in one section of that course. One submitted a drawing that looked too neat and tidy. Normally, one would expect to see tell-tale signs such as erasures but hardly anything, if at all, on his except for the actual lines.

    I went through the other drawings and laid the first one on each until I found the source. Both of them got zero on that assignment.

    The student who copied filed a complaint with my department head and I was soon hauled into his office. I told my boss to turn the drawing sheet over and see what gave the game away. The twerp forgot to erase that side as, by tracing off the source drawing, some of the pencil dust from the existing lines got onto the sheet.

    The zeros stayed in both of their records.

    There were times I felt insulted that students would think I was so dumb that I wouldn't notice such stunts. But, there were occasions when I found it hilarious to see just how stupid they were and how easy it was to catch them.

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    1. I used to teach a CAD course and it was even easier to catch people copying from each other.

      I once had a pair of students who did that. One did all the work, the second merely copied the file onto his machine, tweaked it a bit, and passed it off as his. Both got zero and soon squawked about it. Unfortunately, neither of them understood the concept that there's rarely a perfect crime. There's quite often a critical clue that someone overlooks.

      The chap who copied did almost everything right except he didn't change that part of the drawing that identified who prepared it. He had forgotten to delete the other student's initials which, as it turned out, weren't his.

      Sometimes I couldn't tell who copied and who the source was. I would sometimes give them a choice. I could give them both zero or I'd assign a grade but I'd let them sort out who got it and I'd record their decision. I don't remember anyone who didn't choose to take the zero.

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    2. If I were the student whose drawing was "too neat and tidy", I would have argued that I had produced one or several versions or copies of the very same work before I was able to produce one that was so neat. The onus would have been on No Longer An Academic to prove otherwise. Not having any such versions or copies does not prove that they never existed. Similarly, if they existed, that wouldn't necessarily mean that they were not created after the fact but before being questioned.

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    3. It was an introductory drafting course and, for many of my students, it was the first time any of them ever did that sort of thing. For a rookie to produce a near-perfect drawing that soon after starting the course was highly unlikely. He wouldn't have had time to make multiple copies as each drawing took several hours to prepare.

      Before I started teaching, I spent several years in industry where I was often required to either check someone else's drawings or actually make them myself. I knew what to look for.

      I do recall the student in question concocted a "I made several of them before I got it right" excuse or something similar. That, however, fell apart when I showed that he didn't bother erasing the pencil marks on the underside of the drawing. Evidence like that was hard to refute and my department head accepted it.

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    4. " Unfortunately, neither of them understood the concept that there's rarely a perfect crime."

      My favourite line from Body Heat came from Mickey Rourke:

      "If you want to commit a serious crime, there's at least fifty ways that you can fuck it up. If you can think of twenty five of them, you're a genius and you ain't no genius."

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    5. What about the other "character"? Did that student knowingly allow the other to copy the drawing? If so, were there any repercussions? Was the original work also suspiciously neat? If the work was copied without the author's knowledge and permission, how exactly did that happen?

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    6. Monica:

      After being presented with the evidence, both of them confessed--the first suspect for copying and the other one for providing the drawing which was traced. Both got zero on that assignment.

      There was ample evidence that the original culprit traced his accomplice's drawing aside from what I mentioned.

      As I remember, there weren't many construction lines, if at all, showing that he didn't lay out the views by himself. The location of details such as dimension lines and the dimension values coincided. The length and spacing of hidden and centre lines rarely match when two people work independently.

      I also didn't notice many places where mistakes were erased. Common drafting errors are things like corners for visible lines overlapping, which they shouldn't, or fillets or rounds not blending neatly into straight visible lines. Lettering is also another thing that often gets erased and done over as spacing between characters has to be consistent.

      The sad thing about that incident was that the student in question was, apparently, rushed for time. He didn't want to turn in, in his mind, lousy work and thought, by tracing the other chap's work, he would get a good mark. Instead of taking a chance, or even trusting in my mercy had he come to be beforehand, he wound up with nothing.

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    7. Thanks for explaining. I believe the facts supported your decision, but what would you have done if the students did not confess? At the very least, the student who provided the drawing could have said that he clearly did his own work and doesn't know or care why it may have been copied by somebody else. Alternatively, he could have said that he just meant to show his work to the other, not to let him copy. The fact that the other seems to have rushed may support that excuse. In fact, it could have been true.

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    9. The evidence spoke for itself. The rules were that if there was one student copied another's work, they both got zero, regardless of who did it or who provided the source material.

      After that incident, nobody in the class tried anything like that.

      But there was one case of copying in a different drafting course I taught a year earlier. The student who committed the offence came to me close to tears about it and I believe he was genuinely upset. He was either a foreign student or a recent immigrant and it was likely a privilege for him to get an education, so he didn't want to ruin it for himself. The one who provided the material soon joined us and confessed and was willing to accept his penalty.

      I would have had every right to give both of them zero, but considering how distraught the first student was, I let him off with either 50% or a marginal failure. He had clearly learned his lesson and a zero would have served no purpose.

      After that, I had no problem with either of them. By coming forward and confessing, my opinion of them changed for the better because they showed themselves to be honourable gentlemen who experienced a momentary lapse of judgement.

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    10. Monica, I encounter this issue often. My first assumption is that both students are plagiarists (I deal in lab reports, not drawings). I haul them both into my office and lay it out for them. They both get zeros unless they offer some reasonable, alternative excuse. one such excuse is that student 1 gave student 2 his report to use as a "guide". Is student 1 lying? Probably, but I don't have the time to unravel this Encyclopedia Brown mystery. Student 2 is screwed anyway, so at least somebody leaves my office with a zero.

      Maybe they copied from each other. Well, one of them has to take the blame while his friend gets off free. That's a tough deal to make among thieves, so I doubt it happens too often.

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    11. Ben:

      I didn't even do that much. Once I established who the guilty parties were, both of them automatically got zero. I left it up to them to challenge it and plead their case. If I didn't hear anything from them, I assumed that either both were guilty or didn't care.

      During my first year of teaching, I had a group of student who shamelessly copied a set of drawings for a course project. Their work suddenly looked perfect compared to what they had previously submitted, indicating that they copied from someone, but I couldn't figure out who. I had to let it slide as I couldn't clearly prove that something improper had occurred.

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  9. I love stories of nailed plagiarism. So much of our job is chasing after wee ones as they try their best to pull the wool over our eyes and trick us into giving them grades they dont' deserve. It's the problem of transferring learning -- measured through conversation and demonstration of understanding key concepts -- in to bald numbers. It's a problem.

    But the plagiarizer, when caught: relish it. All the frustrations of a thousand lazy snowflakes can be rectified by throwing the book at the one student you have the power to knock down. It's a thing of beauty.

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  10. Hark! I hear the angels singing! Congratulations!

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  11. How very satisfying it is to put coal in an annoying grade-grubber's stocking.

    Interesting discussion of the nuances of plagiarism detection. I sense that Monica may be a student, or at least a recent student, defending alleged cheaters.

    I've heard Monica's defenses from many students confronted with strong evidence of copying, and my response is, "Here's the syllabus. Note the highlighting on Page X about not letting anyone else copy your work. And here's the college cheating policy. Note the highlighting about not letting other students copy your work. And here's a photocopy of your signature certifying that you had read and understood the syllabus and cheating policy."

    They go away then, and nurse their wounds by posting complaints on The Site That Must Not Be Named.

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    1. Actually, I'm someone whose work was copied in a totally stupid way. When I was a high school student, I wrote an essay that the teacher found really great, or really great for a student at that level. She made me read it aloud in class. Some other day, another student asked me to show it to her (she actually took it away to her desk). I thought she just wanted to read it. After all, she was a good student and I had read the essay in class. She just submitted the essay as her own to the same teacher and got caught! To this day, I can't believe it. I had not seen her write it down in my presence, for example. I think she actually took it home. It happened a very long time ago, so I don't remember for sure.

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    2. Wait... the Dumb Bunny submitted the same paper to the same teacher?

      And please tell me the teacher knew YOU weren't dumb enough to "help" the bunny.

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    3. Yes, the Dumb Bunny really submitted the same paper to the same teacher. I really hadn't helped the Dumb Bunny. After all, I had just been congratulated for the essay and I wasn't surprised that some other student would want to read it again. Since I had read it aloud in class before the teacher and the whole class, I didn't even think that a student would be stupid enough to submit it as her own to the same teacher soon after.

      What if she submitted it to some other teacher, you may ask? The way the classes were set up in that school back then made that impossible. All the students in the class were taking the same courses with the same teachers. It's not as if one of our teachers in another discipline was going to ask us to write the same kind of assignment. I realize that in a system where students can simply take different sections of the same course with a different teacher or the same course some other year, cheating is a possibility. However, that's not how things used to work in that school system a long time ago. I didn't say it happened here, or recently.

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    4. Monica, a few years ago I had two students hand in the same crappy paper. This was a case where I recognized the truly awful language and thought, am I going crazy or did two students come up with exactly the same crap? What I did was call both in and talk to them about it, one right after the other so they could not confer. In the course of the talk, it became obvious to me that one of them did not know the other had copied her paper. I wrote up the whole thing for the chair, with very detailed explanations about why I thought the first student was innocent, and only failed the one who had copied. I just don't think the first student (the innocent one) realized the other would even think of doing that. She thought she was helping her friend by showing her what she had done, to give her ideas. My Chair was fine with me only failing the one student.

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