Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Welcome to the NFL - Another New Instructor Finds Herself In the Brambles of the Profession

I just had the most unpleasant half hour of my short teaching career. I accused some of my favorite students of flagrant plagiarism. It really was an egregious case. My university's pretty draconian about academic misconduct: automatic zeros, removal of drop privilege, notations on permanent records. They claim that this is why the rates of cheating are so low at our university.

After this interview, it seems the real reason is that most professors don't bother enforcing the rules. The students kept citing cases of "friends" who were so accused and who faced no consequences. Some professors would allow the students ("good students") to take an alternative exam. Or they wouldn't carry through with filing the incident with the dean's office.

The students were less concerned over being accused of plagiarism and more that I was having the temerity to actually punish them for their actions. They were perfectly aware of the policy, but had never heard of it being applied. It seemed entirely unfair to them.

And it was - not because there shouldn't be consequences for academic misconduct, but because it's unfair for some students to get away with something when others don't. You can complain about the lack of respect students have for their work, their classes, and you - but it doesn't help to make things easy. You're digging yourself deeper.

I've only just begun teaching, and I'm sure that there will be many more unpleasant events in the future. This was awful - but it wouldn't have been if they hadn't been right!