9.567 plagarism

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Wed, 21 Feb 1996 18:44:00 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 567.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: David Hoover <hoover@is.NYU.EDU> (49)
Subject: Re: 9.561 students, community, the Web

On Tue, 20 Feb 1996, Humanist wrote:

> Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 561.
> Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
> Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/
> [2] From: John Slatin <jslatin@mail.utexas.edu> (75)
> Plagiarism is almost always an act of desperation, it seems to me. If we
> can create learning environments that don't evoke despair at the
> impossibility of satisfying the requirements and encourage instead a feeling
> that they can think and act and write for themselves, we won't have to worry
> much.
> Professor John M. Slatin
> Director, Computer Writing & Research Lab
> Div. of Rhetoric and Composition and Dept. of English
> University of Texas at Austin
> Austin, TX 78712
> jslatin@mail.utexas.edu http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu

Generally, I would agree with most of what's been said about the value of
drafting and collaborating on topics as a way to avoid plagiarism, but I
think this final comment about plagiarism "almost always" being an act of
desperation rather more optimistic than I can be. Far too many cases seem
acts of calculated dishonesty and contempt for the process and nature of

The prevalence of cheating of all kinds even in high school suggests
that one problem is that we have not dealt carefully enough or straight
forwardly enough with the idea of academic honesty. Far too often,
students are allowed to get away with plagiarism because teachers are too
busy to check on suspected cases, don't care, or are doubtful about the
backing they might get from administrators. In my daughter's very good
public high school in New York City, for example, using a racial epithet
is now listed as a more severe infraction than cheating (or theft!)--not
that we want the students using epithets, of course. Perhaps priorities need
to be re-examined.

A colleague of mine who regularly teaches a very large and popular class
regularly includes a question on his final exam that asks the student to
explain his or her term paper in a paragraph. Students who cannot do it
fail the exam. He reports sometimes as many as 15-20 students who have
apparently bought papers and have not even bothered to read them before
turning them in. These are not, I think, usually cases of desperation,
but they are cases that might have been prevented by the means mentioned
by Professor Slatin and others.
David L. Hoover, Assoc. Prof. of Engl. hoover@is.nyu.edu /212-998-8832
NYU English Department, 19 Univ. Pl., NY, NY 10003
Webmaster, English Department http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/english