Thursday, November 30, 2006

What Made You Think You Could Get Away With Something Like This?

One of my colleagues is teaching a freshman survey class, US History to 1865. As part of this class, she has assigned a short book on women in the antebellum South (and by "short," I mean about 100 pages). Students needed to write a 3-5 page (double spaced) review on the book. No exactly a hard assignment.

As she was grading them, however, she came across one which struck her as remarkably familiar. Almost like she had read it before. Then she realized she had. It was a review which had been published on one of the online history networks. It's not even like this guy "borrowed" a sentence or two and didn't cite them. The entire paper was the same, word for word. The only thing which this student had written himself was the last two sentences, which were complete crap. The only other thing this student did to try and hide his plagiarism was to change a few words here and there. It really looks like he simply used the synonym tool on Word. For example, the original review used the word "champion" (as in champion a cause). Well, this student's paper had "gladiator" instead. Yeah, like no would notice that.

And in the course of grading, she has found a couple others, although none quite so egregious. Of course, my friend was more than a little pissed off. She feels that these students are treating her like she's stupid. Well, she's not. And now she's gunning for these students (I offered to walk into her class with one of my other friends, who's just a little unstable, and threaten to break the fingers of anyone who did this sort of thing again - she laughed but did not accept the offer). So, she brought this situation to the attention of the department chair. He looked at the paper, looked at the original review, and said "Give him an 'XE' for the class." Here's how the university defines "XE":

The grade of "XE" denotes failure through academic dishonesty and may not be appealed through the grade appeal process. The grade "XE" shall be recorded on the student's transcript with the notation "failure due to academic dishonesty." The grade "XE" shall be treated in the same way as an "E" for the purposes of grade point average and determination of academic standing.

An XE cannot be expunged from a transcript. It stays on there forever! Good luck ever getting into grad school, dumbass! And this guy is a business major. Companies often look at transcripts specifically for things like this. Worse case scenario, the dean can decide to expel this student, with no change for re-enrollment.

People like this often confuse me some. I can understand that you can get busy and may feel like you need to cut corners to get things done. Remember, I've been there and felt the same way - in fact, there are days I still feel that way. But to think that you can get away with plagiarism is just mind-boggling.

My books need no one to accuse or judge you: the page which is yours stands up against you and says, "You are a thief." ~ Marcus Valerius Martial, Epigrams (bk. I, ep. 53)

9 comments:

Brett said...

Gosh, I think an "XE" is not severe enough of a punishment. I think something like this should mean expulsion.

RogueHistorian said...

Well, it certainly can mean expulsion, but we don't get to make that call. The dean does.

But I agree, an XE does seem a little light. Personally, I'm in favor of breaking fingers or shattering knee-caps. But they tend to frown on that sort of thing.

Cheesehead said...

It's gratifying to know the Chair backed her with at least some sort of punishment. If that had happened in a high school here, the teacher and the school would have been sued by the student and parents...

What an idjit!

Alex said...

Hey RH --

I've noticed a theme in and among your blog posts... what do you think it is?

:) Alex

RogueHistorian said...

Hmmm...could it be that I am easily annoyed with, and/or pissed off by, stupid people? Or is it that I have the urge to inflict physical harm on these people? (Which, by the way, is why I write about these people - so I don't actually end up doing something stupid myself!)

Feemus said...

I'm with Brett. But the XE is better than what happens sometimes at universities, which is that the administration tries to protect the student from any real consequences.

Academic honesty shouldn't be the ideal--it should be the bare minimum.

Alex said...

RH --

Yeah, I guess I know how you feel...and can understand the impulse!

Journey said...

The more I think about it, the more I like this concept of XE. I translate it in layman's terms to: "Too stupid even to fail on your own merits."

Of course, I think they should tattoo it on his forehead as a warning label. Let other people know what they're dealing with . . .

JanieBelle said...

Well said, feemus.

The absolute BARE minimum should be intellectual honesty.

I like journey's idea too, though...