Monday, May 04, 2009


I'm grading student research papers this afternoon (I have to go back over to school shortly to pick up the "I just couldn't get to the printer on time" ones - which get a partial reduction for lateness.

I have 17 of 23 papers. No idea how many are going to come in this afternoon.

But I have a bigger problem.

One student, whose project failed, grabbed me on a day when I was busy and distracted and said, "I need to do an alternate project but I have an idea" and laid out some basic ideas for me. Because I was harried, I kind of waved my hand and said, "Yeah, yeah, go with that."

Well, now I get the paper.

And it is eerily like a paper I read last semester....over this same topic.


Because I am not organized enough - and frankly DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH FILE CABINET SPACE - I do not save copies of past students' papers. I feel I should not HAVE to.

But apparently, now I HAVE to. Or not hand the papers back and irritably say: you have to come look at your grade in my office (Cripes, what a nightmare. I will have 20 uptight pre-meds NEEDING to see their paper probably on the very day I don't have the time or energy to sit there and babysit them.)

I am F.U.R.I.O.U.S.

Furious at myself for not taking the time to photocopy at least the first page of previous papers (but again: I SHOULD NOT *H*A*V*E* TO) and hanging on to them. FURIOUS at the student for apparently trying to pull a fast one that I now cannot prove.

I can go to the faculty member in charge of the lab where she ostensibly did the work and ask her if she was in there, but a response in the negative doesn't necessarily mean that she copied the paper. (A response in the positive, on the other hand....maybe it's not a problem. But the paper is so damn similar, down to the same species of experimental organisms used (not necessarily common ones) in the previous paper that I am VERY suspicious).

I think all I CAN do, other than asking said faculty member, is to grade the paper as HARD as I possibly can. To be really really mean on it. And then if the student comes to whine, demand to see their lab book, evidence of ownership of the animals in question, grill her with questions on the project design.

But....this sort of SHIT (and yes, I'm using that word) is why one of my colleagues stopped doing research papers. At the time, I was scandalized - how can he do that? How can he let the jerks win? How can he reduce the effectiveness of the education for the students who give a damn?

(Simple: because he lets me continue to put up with it.)

Part of me wants to shrug and go, "Eh, it's HER soul. Karma will get her in the end for doing this, if she cheated."

But another part of me goes: "You do not want to get a reputation among the students as someone who will overlook cheating."

The thing is, I don't know 100%. I am afraid to be TOO accusatory.

I don't know what to do. And I have all other kinds of crap to do this week - exams to write, scholarship applications to evaluate (that last one dumped in my lap just today).

I am really FURIOUS at this person for putting me in this position and furious at myself for not exercising UNDUE diligence when it comes to cheating.

GAH. I think I'm NOT handing back the papers this year, I will say, "It's come to my attention that old papers may be being copied from, so sorry, you don't get yours back, I'm keeping them as a file to compare future papers against." What can they do? I'm the prof.

Doesn't solve my cheating issue, but at least it may nip it in the bud for the future.


Talked to my colleague. Student NEVER came to see her. She says Student has NEVER had the class that would teach her how to do this. She's going to call the student with whom the paper probably originated to see what's going on.

She seemed kind of unhappy that the student who may have been the originator may be complicit in this. I am furious too.

Seriously, if I am ever driven from the teaching field, it will be because of all the DAMN CHEATING. I bust my ass to do a good job, be honest, prepare the students well, and then some of these ASSHOLES think they can just cheat their way through and that they can fool me.

Well, no more. They are NO LONGER getting their papers back. In fact, hell, I may not even put very much in the way of comments on them. They don't deserve it! They don't deserve for me to take 8 hours of of my life, to spend more time grading a paper than some of them spent writing the damn thing.

I'd fail 'em all, but I'd get in trouble for that.

I feel sick to my stomach now.


Kate P said...

Whoa. That's all I can say.

Cullen said...

Ricki, are you familliar with, or does your university participate in some kind of plagiarism-checking system?

If students had to turn their stuff in electronically to this system, and hardcopy directly to you, you'd have both a file copy (taking up only electronic space) and the hardcopy for you to return.

ricki said...

No, we don't have turnitin, and since this paper was copied from an earlier semester's paper, turnitin wouldn't catch it.

I don't know. It makes me angry how much time I have to spend on this crap.

Cullen said...

What if you required students to turn in both soft and hard copies? That way you'd at least have a personal, easily searchable file system of papers. Too late for this current situation, I realize, but it might make it easier in the future to catch someone who plagiarized a paper.

w/v: citer - someone who doesn't want to plagiarize.