One of my students, one I actually like, has plagiarized most of her most recent paper from the Internet. She's a C writer, at best, and why she thought I wouldn't notice the sudden change in the acuteness of her observations, her ability to quote the relevant passages, and her suddenly complete and perfect sentence structure is beyond me. It took all of about 90 seconds to find the relevant paper on the Internet, a one-shot Googling of a simple phrase, and there it was. 90 seconds. If that.
And whose fault is this? First and foremost, my student's. It's not that I haven't explained in painstaking detail what plagiarism is. It's not that I haven't threatened hellfire and damnation for doing it. She's behind several papers and like many of my students has kids and a full-time job and I suspect it's desperation. And this is why I blame, in very small part, the culture of adjuncting. If colleges would break down and hire more full-time faculty with real office hours, I'd be available to my students when they got in trouble. I sound like a hardass in the classroom, but it's always tempered with the caveat that I want my students to talk to me if they're getting into trouble. My rules are actually pretty flexible because I know how hard it is to go to school and work at the same time, let alone have kids to take care of. Sheesh. And I've had those semesters myself where everything just goes to hell in a handbasket and you need extensions to get your work done. Make a sincere effort, that's all I ask. And talk to me.
To be fair, I'm available by email and phone and other students have taken advantage of that (not in a bad way), so this student could have too, which is why I blame her primarily. But a department or school full of adjuncts is not doing students any service. I, for one, have too many other things on my plate, while I try to make a living in addition to the meager wages I'm paid by the school, to really serve my students well. And I hate doing a half-assed job of it.
Now I'm remembering why I didn't adjunct for long.
Update: I've just finished going through a whole stack of papers and two more plagiarized essays have turned up, this time from Spark Notes. The first was from Ezine articles. Needless to say, now I'm really furious. Shit, meet fan.
Epilogue: I talked to each student separately and in private and got exactly the same reaction out of all of them: no whining, no drama, no weaseling. Most of all, no need for me to break out the can of whup-ass. Instead, there was unanimous disbelief that they had been so mistaken about citations and the amount of other people's words they should use in a paper, and reassurances that they got it now and wouldn't do it again. Three people obviously disappointed with themselves but taking full responsibility. Wow. I'm so impressed.
It's great teaching grown-ups.