plagiarism II

In follow-up to my last post and the comments it received:

In fact, because of the kind of peculiar & particular assignments I write and the strong education my students receive in the correct use of sources, I very rarely have to deal with cases of plagiarism. This is only my third case at this institution in eight years. And yet, as several commenters suggested, some students will still try to cheat, no matter how well they've been taught or what institutional blocks or punishments exist.

I always follow the procedures of my institution, which include a set series of sanctions and hearings, (some of which can be waived if the student admits fault). Most important, an official record is then kept at the department and at the college level. For a first time offender, depending on the gravity of the case, the sanction allows the student to remain in the class and learn from the situation. But if a student is a second time offender in the college, sanctions are much steeper, and with good reason I think. If faculty just let it slide, or fail an assignment (or even the course) without confronting the student about the reasons for the F, there is no opportunity for the student to learn from his/her error, and no record in the system.

As some have suggested, there are different reasons that students try to cheat -- sometimes it is really out of ignorance. Sometimes it is a sign that a student is overwhelmed in various ways. And sometimes a student is just trying to squeak through without doing the work that s/he is supposed to. When possible, I turn an incident of cheating into a learning experience. So I wouldn't say "I hate you" to a student caught cheating, but I have said "I am really disappointed in you" and gone on to explain why cheating is wrong.

My post (since it's on my blog and all) really wasn't about my student, or how I'd deal with the situation. It's about my feelings of anger and distrust when I first discover a cheating student, which have remained pretty consistent in the fifteen years I've been teaching. Because it breaks the implicit and explicit contract between us as teacher and student, and as human beings acting in good faith. Because I've never cheated on anything in my life, and I can't imagine doing so. Because, as a teacher of literature and writing, I believe that understanding the thoughts of others, developing our own individual perspectives, and learning to express our own ideas, is a fundamental opportunity for our growth as human beings.

So yeah, I'm responsible and pedagogical and all of that when I actually deal with a plagiarist. But the day that I discover the cheating? I'm pissed off. And with good reason I think.