Friday, May 04, 2007

Academic Dishonesty & Co-Dependent “Kids”

I had a case of plagiarism this semester in my freshman general education science course. I reported the incident to my department chair and the student was notified. S/he immediately called his/her parents, who called my chair AT HOME. It turns out the student was supposed to be graduating. I don’t get many seniors in my class- just those that put off the requirement until they need it to graduate. The student was also barely passing the class before the assignment was graded. What this all boils down to, is that the plagiarism decision also decided the student’s ability to pass the course. As you can imagine, the meeting was not pleasant, but the final decision was that the student was to be held accountable for submitting someone’s work as his/her own. I’m left feeling anything but vindicated and the entire process was an ordeal (no wonder people don’t bother to report it).

However, I have larger concerns about the process and outcome in the context of academic integrity. During the meeting with the student (at which the parents spoke more than the student), it became clear that neither the student, nor the parents were willing to accept that the student had intentionally done anything wrong. I’m sure they are still convinced of this, despite the chair’s decision. The student pays the penalty of failing the assignment, but has s/he learned from this? Is s/he less likely to be dishonest in the future? When the perpetrator plays victim it seems unlikely for the experience to be a learning one.

Another aspect of this case is the “pleading ignorance” defense (which I did not buy, since the student was a senior). Give me a break! The student knows what s/he did and that it was wrong, but again, what will s/he learn from it? S/he sabotaged his/her own graduation from college, but the family had no problem blaming me, as the course instructor- again they are the victims of my cruel plot. I’m very disturbed by the turn of events: the total lack of responsibility for one’s own actions, the reliance on parental intervention (with one parent even referring to him/her as a CHILD- your “child” is at least 21 years old!), the dishonesty to plagiarize in the first place…. It’s a sad state of affairs. I think when I was college, my mom once offered to call about something and I was mortified! I can’t imagine meeting with a professor and having my mom there to speak for me. Get some distance from mommy and daddy and get your act together.

7 comments:

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

how sad, really... of course, the poor student clearly comes by it naturally...

Bardiac said...

I detest plagiarism. :(

Everything about it sucks, from figuring it out to dealing with the end results.

Sorry you had a bad one.

Seeking Solace said...

One of my students committed plagiarism last semester. The dean was pissed that I flunked a student who was about to graduate. The student needed my course to graduate and but for the plagiarism, she would have passed. Guess who got their diploma???

It just sucks that administrators have no backbone when it comes to academic dishonesty. What is even worse is that these "kids" go crying to their "helicopter parents" who are ready and willing to back them up. You are considered an adult at age 18, but your would never believe it under today's standards!

Amelie said...

This is really sad. How can we expect people to report honestly on their research findings (or elsewhere in life, for that matter) if they learn in college that you can do just as well by cheating? Perhaps even better because you don't have to do all the work? :(

Addy N. said...

Thanks for the great comments, everyone. I agree- it is sad and as Amelie pointed out, has serious implications for society. I don't know how to make students understand how serious it is- that it isn't just a joke or a short-cut. It's really a shame.

Jenny F. Scientist said...

I caught a student plagiarizing here at Snooty U and the course chair refused to do anything.

So I did my best to scare her to death, because it clearly wasn't intentional on her part. But if it had been? No consequences.

I'd like to add that where I went to college, people actually got suspended for similar offenses. There are a few colleges left that take it seriously- but not enough of them!

Lisa said...

It's very sad, but not unusual, nor has it been for years. I recall a woman, Ms. X (I use the term for gender only, not maturity) in my college class, late 1990s, who did a very poor job in her senior seminar. Multiple issues which Would and Should have caused her to fail.. Well, the professor she had was an older, somewhat rigid man, and known to be tough to ALL, but Ms. X ran to her "helicopter parents" and cried Gender Discrimination.

Everyone who knew Ms. X knew the problem was that she was an academic slacker, but not her parents, of course. Her mother went straight to the College President, with threats of lawsuits and public picketing at the graduation ceremony. Well, we were having a HUGE name speaker that year, and there was much public interest in our College Town, so the President made said professor give Ms. X a C-, just enough to get credit for graduation. How are people ever to learn in our litigious and public image drive society?? I have no answer.