Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Season of the Plagiarists

It's that time of the semester again: desperate students resort to plagiarism though they've been warned of the penalties all semester. At first, I feel bad for them, but then, as the e-mails start pouring in, I'm reminded of that scene in Casablanca, the one where Claude Rains' character - the deliciously despicable Captain Renault - says, "I'm shocked. SHOCKED...that gambling is going on here" as he is being handed his winnings by the croupier.

Of the six plagiarists I caught in one class, five immediately e-mailed me to beg for a meeting to explain why he or she didn't plagiarize (though I have a copy of the crappy, free on-line essay with the plagiarized passages highlighted for each of the plagiarists). Four of these began their e-mails with the words, "I'm shocked!" Really. They could have at least had the good grace to be ashamed.

My favorite e-mail, dripping with unconscious irony and lapses in logic, suggested that the student has plagiarized on many papers in other classes, but his crime was simply made note of in the comments at the end of his essay. Though he's just admitted that he plagiarizes all the time, he follows this with the comment that he's never had an issue with cheating before, and he is shocked to be accused of it. He also laments that all his work has now gone to waste - not because he plagiarized, but because I reported it.

Just once I would like to receive a plagiarist's e-mail that says something like, "What must you think of me? I cheated, and you caught me. I am embarrassed and ashamed, and I apologize for putting you in this position."

I discovered the plagiarism five days ago. I have lost five days when I needed to be grading essays and exams, but instead have been dealing with the bureaucracy of plagiarism and the endless e-mails from students who cheated, but refuse to accept their penalty. On top of that, I know from experience that when I see these plagiarists in the halls next semester, they will give me the venom-filled stares of victimhood.