I love almost everything about teaching.
What I don’t like — what will screw up my sleep habits for weeks after it happens — is handling what we here at The Citadel call “HVs”: Honor Violations. In my academic neck of the woods that means plagiarism and lying (which are really the same thing in the end).
I’m currently on a years-long streak of catching at least one plagiarist every semester. I don’t know if this streak reflects that my students think I’m an idiot or if it means that I’m smarter than the average bear, but either way it tears me up inside every time another name, another face, another young life gets added to that terrible list. I’m not proud of the streak, I assure you. Indeed, I’m deeply sorrowed.
Because here at The Citadel an H.V. is generally a one-strike-and-you’re-out proposition. Plagiarism is intellectual theft, and they’re absolutely serious about its prosecution. I applaud that position on principle, of course — one of the reasons plagiarism rates are so high (aside from the internet’s open temptations) is that too often schools give only a light slap on the wrist to those who commit it — but at the same time it means that I feel a very heavy weight when I discover a plagiarist.
I know that I’m not the executioner. I only turn over the information to an Honor system that has far more responsibility for deciding fates. But that technical detail frankly doesn’t mean much when I know how an expulsion due to academic dishonesty can hang like a black cloud over a life hardly begun at age 19. The tears that are shed — and, yes, there are always tears — are not all theirs.
Simply put, it’s a tragedy I want no part of, even if I know I have no choice.
So the bad day in teaching, the worst possible day, is every day that my hopes for a semester without a plagiarist are ended.
Sunday was that day. My streak still stands.
I found three.