Posted by September Blue Monday, 17 December 2007

One of my students plagiarised their* last assignment, and I have no way of proving it. Curses.

All right, in fairness: it's possible the student wrote the assignment themselves, and this is why Google, Turnitin, and a search of everything relevant in the university library have failed to turn up anything incriminating. And here, we must tread carefully, lest we end up as The Bad Guy in future stories of the academic wunderkind whose idiot tutors refused to believe in their genius and hauled them in on plagiarism charges, and it was then, as they will describe it in their bestselling memoir Those Who Can't - Teach!, that they learned the sad truth about how universities are staffed by angry, bitter, jealous, dried-up old has-beens who exist only to crush the life out of creative young minds.

Don't think I haven't thought this through.

So, yes, it's possible that the work is their own. I won't deny that. But it's also possible that Mercury is inhabited entirely by tigers, and I'd give that possibility better odds. I've taught this kid; I've read stuff written by this kid before. It reads nothing, nothing, like this. And it doesn't help that the student in question has attended no lectures, missed the maximum allowable number of tutorials, did none of the reading as far as I could ever determine, and has a history of plagiarism already. Still, I can't prove it; I can't even call the student in for a meeting about it, which would be the usual Plan B, since it's the end of semester and students have all left campus now; and I need to give a final grade. And department regulations are clear on this: innocent until proven guilty.

* Singular 'they' is fairly common in informal British English, and I have no idea why we don't all accept its use in every situation. (It comes in particularly handy for describing one's students in gender-neutral non-identifying ways on one's blog, for instance.) What's the point of backflipping through awkward neologisms just to reinvent the wheel?


  1. francofou Says:
  2. Maddening, indeed.

    Well, as I said to my uncle Bruno:

    The seed ye sow, another reaps;
    The wealth ye find, another keeps;
    The robes ye weave, another wears;
    The arms ye forge, another bears.

  3. Autumn Song Says:
  4. I send sympathy. It's so frustrating when that happens. I had one a while ago like that. I know they copied it (and that someone copied from them) but I couldn't find it anywhere.

    Curses and more curses.