Six out of 50

Monday, October 17th, 2011

The link-sharing site Reddit has evolved into its own community with the values you might expect of modern university students and recent grads.

So we regularly see what (Professor) Ilkka likes to call “Oh, if the leader only knew!” posts, like I am a TA at a university. My professor and I are currently in an unusual and very awkward situation, and we could use some advice…:

The course in question is an introduction to writing for first-year undergraduates at a Canadian university. They submitted their first full-length papers of the term a week ago, and we’ve been dutifully marking them with the intention of handing them back next week.

We’ve been extra-rigorous when it comes to checking these papers for plagiarism, both because it’s the first real work they’ve submitted and because of a memo sent out to our department back in late August urging every instructor to take greater measures. We’ve been cross-checking passages (especially suspicious ones, but also some that have been randomly chosen) using Google all along the line. We have been finding plagiarists.

Specifically, we have found six plagiarists (out of a class of 50).

All of them are black. And there are no other black students in the class.

My prof and I are both pretty sure that other students have probably plagiarized (it happens so, so much), but these are the only ones we can definitively prove. It’s not even circumstantial or flimsy proof, either; complete, shitty, largely unaltered papers taken directly from sites like this. Anyone with a search engine could find them.

It would seem to be an open and shut case, but the fact that every last one of the students is black is making us hesitate. I don’t know what it’s like in other countries, but in Canada we have a well-established Human Rights Commission that would be all too happy to accommodate some or all of these students bringing both my professor and me up on charges of racial discrimination. It wouldn’t even matter if we were to be eventually vindicated; the process is really expensive and time-consuming, and many people who have to deal with it end up settling even though they maintain their innocence. This, anyway, is quite apart from anything the university itself might do to us, which is another story entirely.

It’s possible that our worries are unfounded, but we still have them — these things have happened before. How on earth should we proceed? The idealist in me insists that we give these students the failing grades they deserve and maintain some spirit of academic integrity, but neither I nor the prof wish to have our careers ruined over something like this.


  1. Riesenbach says:

    This TA seems to enjoy frank communication and, apparently, sympathy in outlook, with their professor. The political dimension of this scenario would be difficult for anyone to miss, but in a thousand other cases graduate students often don’t perceive (at least early in their career) the litmus tests hidden for them in the classroom and at the seminar table. Political culling of the academic profession begins on the first day of the apprenticeship, and even mild expressions or acts of dissent can make a grad student’s life very challenging. Having a sympathetic advisor is great luck.

  2. Borepatch says:

    And thus we see validated the Left’s love of the use of Governmental Force.

    Hey, you go to the University for an education, right? The TA just got one, good and hard.

  3. 100% of the non-black students will be capable of doing the work, since they would not be at university if they were not capable, and 100% of the black students will not be capable of doing the work, since if they were capable doing the work, would not be at this univesity, but at Harvard.

  4. Zimriel says:

    The scene to watch is that scene in American History X, at the beginning, in the bathroom.

    Three black kids, an athletic trio, menace a scrawny “beta” white boy in their class, to do their homework for them. The question isn’t, why the racial dynamic? The question is, why do the three bullies care?

    I propose that these three bullies were the ones who planned on getting out of that ghetto school and getting into the Ivy League. These bullies were the upwardly mobile. These three became this post’s six.

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