Friday, January 25, 2008


SleepyBeth wrote a post about plagairism. It immediately brings to mind the occassion when I was a graduate student teaching assistant. The class was a mix of undergrad and grads, and was moderately difficult. Because some students were doing poorly, I told the class they could attend the lectures of a special on-campus event about ethics and write an essay on the topics covered. One international student (who had no need for extra credit at all) attended said lecture on plagairism and submitted an essay to me. The writing was soooooo much better than anything she had ever turned in to me that I googled (hmm.... was google around back then? I probably used netscape search engine or something) some key phrases and proved that over 3/4 of her essay was copied verbatim and without credit. She had plagairised an essay on plagairism. Ironic. When confronted with this fact (which would cause her to flunk the class and face censure) she said "In my culture, copying is the highest flattery." I was furious and spent several hours debating the problem with my advisor and the head of the department. In the end, she received no credit for this extra credit assignment but no other punishment but a warning that in an American school she must follow the rules of the school not the ideas of her culture.

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