The Texture Of Things

There is an “F” in Plagiarism

November 30th, 2006

Tonight, I had to fail a student, and it sucked. I like this student, though most of the time I’m not sure why. He’s quiet and I hardly know him, especially compared to his compatriot, an outgoing instigator and fun-poker-atter. Still, when I read his essay the other night, I knew it wasn’t his. I found the original essay on Google in about three seconds flat. I seethed, I lamented. I knew I had to fail him, under my and under the college’s policies on integrity and plagiarism. I ached at the thought of doing it.

For more than a day, I was really mad at him. How could he? Why would he? How stupid does he think I am? How many other students are doing it and getting away with it? Those right bastards, but I’ll never catch them all. And they don’t matter because I don’t know who they are, and he does matter because he did do it and I caught him.

So tonight I met him at the door, I handed him his essay with a cover letter informing him I have failed him in the course. He can’t withdraw since the deadline for student withdrawal has passed, so he has to take the F and take the course over.

When he read the subject line of the letter (“RE: Plagiarism”), he said aloud, “Plagiarized. I did it.” His hands were shaking a little. He didn’t look up right away. Then he added, “I was just so confused with the essay and I didn’t know what to write.”

I told him, “That’s when you call me, not do this.”

I don’t know what I expected from him. I had prepared myself for his plea for mercy yet didn’t get one.

He said he’d leave, and he turned to go. I returned to the classroom and for the remainder of the night I could feel his absence from the table he typically shared with his buddy. Never this whole semester were he and his pal separated. When one was absent, so was the other; when one was present, so was the other. But not tonight. Not for the next two weeks and not next semester when he’s repeating Comp I and his outgoing buddy is in my Comp II course.

Before I got to school tonight, I thought I’d feel all vindicated and righteous after I delivered the news, but I don’t. I feel a little sad. I feel like both of us had a hard lesson tonight in what it means to be a grown up.

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