Sunday, May 3, 2015

4 Years Ago Right On This Damn Site!

TUESDAY, MAY 3, 2011

Sally the Sap Gets Plagiarized on Twice in 24 Hours.

My rich kid snowflake Donnie DollarSign turned in a remarkable essay on indigenous Australian art last week. I didn't see it in the big looming stack of grading until early yesterday morning.

It set off alarm bells because it wasn't a topic he and I had discussed, and the writing was so different from any of the 6 pieces I'd seen from him during the semester.

As I sometimes do in cases like this, I Googled a few sentences in the first paragraph, and they all came up in the same Wikipedia article. We've covered documenting sources all semester, and Donnie's essay featured several well placed in-text citations, none of which was for the huge amount of Wikipedia text.
I estimated that 70% of the essay had been plagiarized and I contacted him by email. Within an hour I got a long, heartfelt apology. Turns out that Donnie's big sis is an art major. She loves to help little bro. Donnie just foolishly used "parts" of one of her old papers, also liberally plagiarized from Wikipedia. Donnie was "distressed" and "distraught." His respect for his sister had been shaken. Could I see what dismay had befallen him? Couldn't I give him a chance?

I'm a sap. I called him on the phone and read him the riot act about plagiarism, why it's wrong, what it means to the university, what it'd would mean in his next class, etc. And then I told him I'd let him turn in another paper, with a 24 hour deadline, shorter than our requirement, but that still needed outside sources.

Oh dear was Donnie happy.

This morning, just moments ago, I opened an email attachment from Donnie. Oh he was grateful for the chance, the trust, etc. You all know how the story ends.

I Googled parts of the first paragraph of this new essay on Chinese art, and found nearly all of it on Wikipedia.

So, did he screw me this second time? Or was it his sister?

It all results in the same grade.


  1. Over here we have an "office of few consequences" (love that term) for academic dishonesty. For the first offense of plagiarism the student must write a paper on that topic, why it is wrong, why they will never do it again, etc. If there is a second offense the student can be expelled.

    Every year one or two dimwits get their walking papers for plagiarizing their essay on plagiarism.

  2. I love the excuse that he wasn't the one plagiarizing because he was quoting his sister without attribition.

    1. That one baffles me every time I hear of it, and it never seems to die. "I didn't plagiarize, it was the person who wrote my paper for me (but whose name appears nowhere on it)." Things like this result in head-shaped dents in the cinder-block walls of my office.

    2. Ouch. I once got a 9-page paper for a 3-page assignment, and more than 80% was directly off the web. The student said it wasn't her fault, because her boyfriend did it. Tastiest detail: she was a journalism major.