Believing in the green light.

So, as I mentioned on the podder, I went to this 2 hour meeting at which my dear 6pt cheater plead her case, at length, to a jury of her peers and mine. The board members, as they are called, were very impressively non-partisan, and professional, and I came out of the hearing convinced that I could well trust their judgement, but I was not 100% sure of what that outcome would be.

The final report arrived a couple days ago, and, in short, it upheld the original penalty. So, after 4 months of whining, and complaining, and driving everyone concerned a little nuts with her behaviour (everyone who talked to her had meetings that went for at least an hour, every time), 6pt managed to achieve exactly nothing, except that now she has an official “cheater” tag, and has managed to irritate several people. As my Head of Department said, “that will teach her not to paste an essay on a handout for an exam, except it probably won’t.”

The written report of the hearing was very interesting; while for the most part, it was an objective summary of events, there were a couple of points at which the language went from temperate to snippy. It described 6pt as elaborating at length about how she thought what she did was okay, and going on and on and on about how she had no intention to cheat, and then there was the curt sentence “the board deemed that motivation was irrelevant”. The conclusion also betrayed some annoyance, saying that the jury members expected 6pt to appeal the decision as she showed no respect for the process, and did not seem to listen to what was said. FYCL, was my response.

So a win in this battle, but what about the war?

For my part, this experience has added another dead duckism to my course outline, which raises for me some serious issues about expectations. Should I really have to tell my students not to try to sneak prepared essays into an examination? Is it right for me to laugh at the guy who waited 6 weeks before asking what he should do about missing his exam? Ought there to be a pineapple clause, explaining appropriate behaviour when meeting with your professor? Where are these lines?

Sarcastic Bastard suggested that perhaps articulating dead duck rules might be part of the problem; that our students are so used to being told what to do and doing just what they are told that they don’t ever think about the reasons for instructions. One of the jury asked 6pt a couple questions about this, why she didn’t ask herself what my instructions  meant, or whether it crossed her mind, while she was standing at the photocopier, whether what she was doing was really within the spirit of the instructions, but she was adamant that it never occurred to her to think about stuff like that.

Of course, the kicker here is that she was in a class about critical reading and writing, where, you know, I was trying to teach her to read critically, and analyse documents, and understand things like what a writer might have been saying beyond the surface of a text. You know, things like “why am I being told not to write on the back of the handout?” Her failure to apply the things she was learning in the course to other situations, related to the damn course, depresses me, because it seems to be indicative of the depth to which snowflakery runs.

I could let this really get to me, or I can do what 6pt refuses to do, and accept it, and learn from it, and wade back into the fray. I choose to beat on, a boat against the current.

3 thoughts on “Believing in the green light.

  1. You Know Who

    I don’t believe she didn’t know exactly what she was doing – she wouldn’t be defending her intentions so militantly if she didn’t think they needed defending. I really don’t understand her motivations for this whole thing.

    Speaking for myself (as a college student) it does help to have the professor go over what to do if you fuck up – how to turn in an assignment in late, how to go about trying to retake an exam, etc. If I wind up doing something like that, I would tend to assume the worst (that I wouldn’t be able to retake the exam/turn in the homework late/etc.) and possibly spiral off into some kind of never-ending anxiety-feeding loop and be unable to be proactive about anything. If the professor has said anything about this, even as much as a simple, “Hey, if you miss an exam, let me know,” (or, as another of my professors said, “If you’re late to class, come anyway.”) it makes it much easier to actually start attempting to do something about it. I think this is probably especially true for students who are just out of high school. It’s not so much an inability to figure things, or being unable to understand the reasons for directions out as it is panicking when things go wrong. It’s probably all old hat to you, but it’s different when it’s your grade, and you’re relatively new to it.

    (But maybe that’s just me.)

  2. ezuroski

    I’ve had similar lines of questioning with myself when writing out “academic honesty” clauses on my syllabi. I care whether or not my students plagiarize, but I don’t consider my primary task as an instructor to be “catching plagiarists,” and I worry that the more space we have to dedicate to spelling out Rules and Regulations on our course descriptions, the more it seems like our job is Rule Enforcer. And I’ve spent way too much time in the past dealing with students who are so paralyzed with fear about “committing plagiarism” that they cannot learn to enjoy the academic writing process. Writing is hard enough without feeling like one false move will make you a PERMANENT RECORD PLAGIARIZER. Now that I’m in a department that has an official Academic Dishonesty Statement that goes on course descriptions, I put that in but in class I say something like, “This basically says Plagiarism Is Bad And Don’t Do It. If you are not sure whether or not you are plagiarizing, you are not; you simply have a question about citing sources. Come see me about it.” I think it’s fair to ask university students to be able to use some common sense, no? But experiences like yours would suggest otherwise.

  3. Rhayden

    Glad to hear that there is finally some closure on the matter and that she didn’t get her way. Sometimes the system works.


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