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That’s what I wrote on the top of one paper from midterms, which, yes, sadly I’m only handing back this week. (I’ve had them for several weeks, but been to busy to grade them.)

Most of the essays were fine, a few were inspiring (considering the students’ circumstances — it’s not easy to write an essay in a foreign language about a poem in a foreign language, after all — but a few were pathetically plagiarized. I stopped in the middle of higlighting the stolen bits in one — they made up two solid pages at that point — and wrote, “I won’t waste my time any further.” But the one that takes the cake is where a guy simply copied a whole website as the introductory section of his essay.

As if professors don’t know how to use google. Or, perhaps, as if they don’t read essays.

The guy who did this isn’t dumb. His English isn’t great, but he’s not a moron. What I have to wonder is whether, in his educational career, he’s done this before, or whether he’s never felt this desperate before and this is his first time trying to pull the wool over a teacher’s eyes. Because frankly, it was obvious from the start, but worse, he didn’t even make an effort to conceal his plagiarism.  Some students introduce grammatical errors, for example, or mix and match their own sentences with the ones they steal. But this guy simply copied and pasted a website into his word processor.

Something makes me wonder whether maybe, just maybe, he has gotten away with this before. Why and how, I’m not sure, and I should be clear that I’m not laying the blame (solely) on my fellow professor’s feet. Class sizes make reading piles of essays a challenge, and the fact that it’s rather commonly accepted for professors not to return essays with comments and feedback makes it more likely that essays sometimes just skimmed and graded. Besides, disciplining someone for plagiarism is rather costly in terms of time, especially doing it effectively, and one is sometimes tempted just to lowball the grade and let it pass, so one can focus efforts and energies on the students who are trying their hardest.

But as for me, I have such issues with plagiarism I can never let it pass. This guy (and the other two plagiarists from this current stack of essays) will be given some significant extra homework for the purposes of working off their plagiarism penance. The two who stole 2+ pages of stuff will get F on their papers, and no protest will change my mind about that. (The one guy who stole only a few sentences will suffer a less painful fate, but will have to visit my office to learn how to cite his sources.) But they’re ALL going to have to do some extra work for the privilege of being allowed to stay in the class.

Since we have a poetry reading coming up in a week, I’ll have these guys make posters about the reading, in English and in Korea alike, and post them all over campus. I’ll warn them that, if I don’t see posters everywhere — everywhere — that I go by Tuesday evening, they’re going to be out of the class.

Now I’m going to go select a few poems from each student for inclusion in the class’s chapbook, which I’ll hopefully be assembling in time for our poetry reading at the campus English cafe on Monday evening!

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