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Thursday, October 18, 2012


Last night, I ran another 3 miler as a follow up to Tuesday's start back to running.  My legs were a little stiff at first but they warmed up enough and the run went decently (slow but steady).  Today, though, I can really feel the back-to-back runs in my quads.  It's been awhile since I've felt sore from running; strangely, it's kind of an enjoyable feeling.

Am I sick in the brain or what?

In other news, I have a student issue weighing on me, which has been making my brain sore.  I had a student plagiarize an essay.  My policy on plagiarism is very rigid: Students who deliberately plagiarize (submit work that is not theirs -- and this student's work was NOT hers, it was copied from various websites) fail my class.  End of story: failure.  But...the student is now pleading with me for a second chance, and I'm on the fence about it.

Part of me feels like I need to stick to my syllabus' policy, which is harsh (I take the hardest possible line of punishment the college allows because I feel plagiarism is a serious affront to academic integrity), but I typically feel that students who plagiarize need the harsh lesson -- you steel, you pay.  However, another softer part of me feels that people do deserve second chances, and that perhaps a merciful approach provides just as much of a "teachable moment."

As I was running last night, I tried to sort through a solution, but I felt like I could argue with myself for both sides and 3 miles weren't enough to come up with a way to solve my dilemma. 

What's your opinion?  Deliver the hard lesson, or take the opportunity to allow someone to learn from her mistake and correct it?

Man, to even be thinking about allowing her a second chance means I'm getting to be a softie.  Some colleagues and I were talking about how parenting has changed our teaching the other day, and I said I didn't think it had changed me much: Now I see how it has. 


nrmrvrk said...

1) The student has been told that plagiarizing is wrong their entire school career up until now

2) Your syllabus explains your policy about plagiarism and it's consequences.

3) The student's second chance will come in the form of taking your / that class again in the future and not being kicked out of school outright.

4) your job isn't to encourage bad choices / poor judgement.

All that said, in the working world plagiarism isn't that uncommon.

James said...

I feel the same way about running soreness, it's a "good" soreness.

As for plagiarism, stick to your syllabus. Some things may warrant a second chance, but outright plagiarism isn't one of those. If you give in, you'll be making it more likely the student will repeat it. If you stand firm, it will be a teachable moment to them that plagiarism is wrong and will not be tolerated in an academic setting.

I agree with nrmrvk, in the working world, it's common, but many times there is no assumption that the work is completely original. In academia, that is the assumption.

Let them hang and make an example.

Anonymous said...

I've heard many stories about people failing classes for plagiarism. I think most universities have a strict policy against plagiarism, similar to yours. Meaning, this girl should have known what she was getting into before she did it.

If you bend for this one student, you will have to do it again and again. You should stick to your rules, not only because you have them for a reason, but because rumors will get around either way. So it could be "I heard of this one girl who plagiarized her paper, and she failed the entire course!" encouraging others not to do it, or "I heard about this one girl who plagiarized her paper, but her professor gave her another chance. So...you might as well try it."

Taking a stand now means you won't have to continue making this decision over and over in the future.

Beret said...

Didn't you go through this a few years ago with a different student? For some reason I thought I remembered you failing another student for plagiarism. Maybe I'm thinking of someone else.

Stick to your written rules, the kid knew the punishment before she did it.

runner26 said...

I've only taught elementary students and a lot times when a student got in trouble, our goal was to make them understand what they did wrong and why they shouldn't do it again. A consequence was almost always a given, but that consequence was open to our discretion. Our primary focus was on making each discipline situation a learning experience. It wasn't always easy, but it seemed to work.

With college students, i think its different. They are no longer learning right from wrong. They know when theyre doing something wrong. it seems that if they knew the consequence for plagiarism, then the failure should be no surprise. I think it's unfortunate, but it's a good lesson for her to learn. I'd stick to your rules and try not to let it affect you personally. I would probably commiserate with her, but make it clear that this is the rule you prevosly communicated and if you let her slide, you will have to do the same with others.

Colleen said...

I think your policy is a lot less harsh then what my college roommate experienced - she had to attend a school hearing regarding her plagiarized paper, and they ultimately decided to kick her out of the university.

Honestly, since you said you are feeling like a "softie", think about it from a parental perspective. If Norah or Caleb plagiarize 20 years from now in college, would you feel that they deserve the punishment of failing the course? Or would you feel they deserve a second chance? Are there any valid excuses that warrant second chances for plagiarizing?

If you want my opinion, I would vote to stick to your syllabus. You wrote it for a reason, but if you do not follow through with your rules, then they will continually be broken by current and future students.

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

Glad you enjoying getting back to running. That "I gave myself a good workout" feeling is a wonderful reward for your efforts.

As to your student issue, if it is simply about enforcing "rules" and what the student should have or already knew the answer is simple. However, if as a teacher you are hoping to shape human beings into something "better" I two cents is for the case to be concerned on it's own merit. Talk with the student. Use your judgement in whether this is a moment when you can help the student become a better person by actually learning from this experince. And hopefully she won't become one of those in the "working world" where supposedly plagarism is common.

Anonymous said...

Regarding your student, I think intent is important. Did the student realize that assembling work copied from other sources was plagerizing, or did the student think, that by virtue of assembling the work, it was somehow now "original"?

Viper said...

What is the school's policy on plagiarism? As some have noted, my college could have kicked you out for such an offense. By contrast, failing a class seems light. Good luck with that. Cheers!

X-Country2 said...

Yeah, this sounds like your previous plagiarism case. You flunked that person, right? I vote you do that. This is an adult you're dealing with. Protect that rep as a hardass!

Jamoosh said...

There can always be exceptions, I guess. But if there is one exception, there door is open to other exceptions.

What I might consider is to give her a zero on the essay, meaning she would have to work very hard on other assignments to make it up. So not only does she learn a lesson, but she has to work extra hard to overcome breaking your policy. Then again, I don't know how the essay factors into the grade or your scoring system.

TNTcoach Ken said...

"Art is either plagiarism or revolution."

"If you steal from one author it's plagiarism; if you steal from many it's research."

"Originality is undetected plagiarism."

Leah said...

I say stick with your policy in your syllabus. She knew it was wrong and did it anyways. She can have a second chance when she takes the class again.

Michael said...

I'll take the less popular side here. To say that once mercy is displayed to this student, then more and more students will take the chance, is known as the slippery slope fallacy. And it is only correct if everyone knows all the details, whether you tell the story, or she does.

When there is an option, and you feel that a lesson can be learned without exacting the maximum stated punishment (and make no mistake about it, we ALL continue to learn things we should have already mastered....right up until we leave this earth), take the chance.

We are all fallible. We all break rules. One day, we will all face a judge, and we will not cry out for justice, but for mercy.

Only you can read this situation correctly. Do what you have to do to teach (you are a teacher, that is what you do)...but don't do more than you have to.

Teresa said...

Agree with the "intent" comment. I don't have enough detail about this situation but many students truly do not understand what plagerism is.

Alice said...

You have to stick to your syllabus. If you stated in there you copy you fail then that is what you should do. I'm only 8 years older than many students at university right now but compared to how my friends and I were when we studied these kids know nothing and often act as if everyone needs to bend the rules for them because they are special. I'm speaking from experience not being mean (I'm an advisor in a Math faculty at a Canadian university).

Students need to learn the consequences and a lot more good will come from her failing and people learning that if you copy you fail, then you giving her another chance. Sadly I've seen the statistics and in most cases the second chance doesn't turn out any better.