I put a lot of work into my teaching. I don’t say that to brag, as I sometimes worry that it’s not healthy. But then you’ll read a paper that really gets it — a student has taken everything you’ve suggested and worked hard — and suddenly it seems like what we do matters after all.

And then you get the plagiarism case.

Although I’m sure a few students over the years have figured out ways to fool me, on the whole plagiarism is pretty damn obvious. Like when they use a foreign-language phrase clearly lifted from Wikipedia (my favorites are when they use something in Latin). Or when they use English terms they clearly do not understand. Or when, suddenly on p. 2, their writing goes from belabored to clean, neat, and effective.

After working this hard, I have no energy left for cheats.

I don’t want to listen to anyone apologize, offer excuses, cry, feign ignorance of the university’s rules, or deny it. I wash my hands.

Here’s my response: I find the original source, fill out a report with the university’s honor council, send them all the documents, and let that office take over. I send the student an email stating that this process has begun and that it is entirely in the hands of the Honor Council. And my university takes these offenses seriously. Their staff studies the documents I provide and meets with the student to discuss the matter. Then they contact me and we discuss any final details, as well as preferred punishments.

The typical punishment is an automatic F in the class with a notation on the student’s transcript that the F was earned due to academic dishonesty. If the student is a serial offender, they can be suspended or expelled. After five years, the student can petition to have the notation about dishonesty removed from the transcript.

Having now faced down plagiarism case #2 of the semester, I can only say that I’m tired. And I still have 20 papers left to grade.

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