I have been placed into the role of Acting Chair for my Department, which makes me the go-to gal for student complaints. Pete, you came to see me in quite a dither. You had been treated unfairly. You got a C- on your portfolio, and thus in the class. That won't transfer. Your professor had not marked all the errors on your drafts, so you could not correct them. You only corrected the 40,000 errors he did mark. How were you supposed to know that those other errors were even there? It was not fair.
I was going to go into a little dissertation on editing, on marking patterns of errors, on student responsibility to re-edit, perhaps even with a tutor, when something about that first essay on the pile caught my eye.
It was on Guy de Maupassant's "The Jewelry" .....wait....what?
Guy de Maupassant wrote an often anthologized story called "The Necklace."
"What's that....what's that title? That's not the story's title. That story is called 'The Necklace.'" I was seriously confused for a minute. Pete, you went into another outraged dither. How could you learn, when your professor gave you stories with the wrong title? That's the title he used when he lectured on it! You remembered it perfectly! This was an outrage. How could we employ professors of such low quality! You were going to complain to the Dean! I pointed out that he did circle the title with an accompanying question mark.
"Where did you get the idea that was the title?" I asked. Your textbook, you replied, the subpar one your professor used for the class. "Hmmmmm. That's very interesting. Let me see it," I said. Oh, you never actually bought the textbook. "How did you do the reading then?" I asked. Pete, you looked downright martyred when you told me you had to do all your reading at the library, as you had run out of financial aid. "So....a book at the library had a story in it called "The Jewelry" by Guy de.....wait, let me just google it, and see what comes up," I said.
What came up, Pete, was a smattering of cheat essays by very stupid students, writing about a non existent story called "The Jewelry." Google itself was confused, and also gave me student cheat essays about that other pesky story, the real one, called "The Necklace." The Wikipedia article that also came up was only on "The Necklace." Wikipedia had nothing on "The Jewelry" on account of the fact that's the wrong title, dumbass. In this case, Pete, Wikipedia would have served you well.
"Pete, it looks like you were influenced by these student cheat essays," I said, looking you in the eye. "That's never a good idea, to get your ideas from student cheat essays. Often, they contain wrong information. You need to rely on your textbook, your notes, any of the materials found in the library in support of students reading these types of stories, or educational sites sponsored by colleges and universities." Pete, you never missed a beat, complaining that your professor was so unclear, who could blame you for looking for more information about the stories online. And how were you, a poor student without the training to know better, supposed to tell a student cheat website from a legitimate website?
I was suddenly very done with you. "Well, If you want to challenge your grade, you need to leave this portfolio here, so I can look through it carefully. I'll want to make sure, of course, that you were not too heavily influenced by the cheat essays. If I find that you have plagiarized, I'll have to change your grade to an F and make a permanent notation on your transcript." I was bluffing about the permanent notation. It's in the student handbook, but the admins would never let me actually do it.
None of this, Pete, was even worth your time. Forget it, you said, gathering your papers and leaving in a huff.
I made a mental note to have a talk with that prof to encourage him to grade a little tougher.