There was no racial component to it although we do belong to a religious minority, come from low-income backgrounds and were homeschooled. I personally felt some prejudice at various times on account of these characteristics.
In my case I was a 16 year old high school dropout taking a history class at a Junior College. My prof had a lengthy conversation basically trying to get me to admit my parents wrote an essay for me and eventually gave up, although clearly unconvinced.
In my brothers case a few years later (different college, different prof) I believe he was given a zero on a test and had to file a grievance to be able to redo the work or retake the test. This is circa 2000 so my memory is a bit fuzzy.
In both our cases there was no evidence - just the perceived mismatch between our presentation and ability prompted the accusations. (We were bookworms and in a family of bookworms despite being poor and lower class.)
My only comment and the only relevance to the linked story is I remember how OUTRAGED I felt at the accusation. It wasn't even the accusation of cheating - that I would be dishonest. It was the condescension, the implied "obviously you are not good enough to have produced this" attitude that hurt the most. In my case the professor was obviously trying to give me a break and be friendly but I remember how hurt I was and in my brother's case... I don't think he would ever speak to the prof again.
Being judged incapable of producing your own work BURNS.
Couldn't she have spent the time talking to you about history and confirming your analytical and literacy skills were up to the required standard?
Or you could take it as that you are so much better than your class mates that your work stands out as being exceptional. This is a huge complement.
I used to be a professor and I can tell you plagiarism is rampant. When a student hands in a work that is far above their peers you are suspicious. I would never accuse a student of cheating without evidence, but I have asked many about their work to ascertain if they had actually produced the work themselves. In every case where I was suspicious (around 20), the person did not have the slightest clue about what they had supposedly written. Professors are cynical for a reason.
My related experience anecdote was as a 2nd or 3rd grader. I made some poem as a class project and had the line "in some foggy old latrine" and my teacher accused me of making up the word "latrine" and refused to believe me when I said it was a military toilet. (I wasn't some super literary, I just heard the word used enough on the tv show MASH)
So frustrating and hurtful to be accused like that, but I am pretty sure it wasn't racism. Just a clueless teacher who reacted the wrong way.
Was really weird being accused of plagiarism for something I knew I wrote. I mostly didn't care enough to contest it though.
However, we don't know why the professor came to the conclusion that she plagiarised. Maybe they jumped to conclusions on limited evidence, or maybe this paper was written with vocabulary and sentence structure which was inconsistent with the student's earlier work. Either way, it's incredibly unlikely that an academic professor of sociology would be a closet racist.
tl;dr It's unfair to be accused of plagiarism for submitting a paper which sounds "too intelligent", but it's also unfair to be accused of racism for attempting to enforce academic standards.
Unfortunately, this a story which is going to press the internet's hot buttons.
When I read this piece, I immediately flashed back to my first week of college, decades ago.
Apparently on the basis of my entrance essay, the school decided I should skip English 101 and placed me in ENGL102 the first semester. When we received the first assignment (a criticism and synopsis of some article I don't remember) back from the professor, held back the two he thought were the best to ask those students to read them to the class as examples of what he wanted to see.
It was too early for him to know our names so he called the first name and gave that student his paper to read. Then he called my name and I raised my hand. I'm black. He did an obvious double-take, looked down at the paper to verify that he had picked up the right one, then looked up, raised his eyebrows slightly and brought it to me. It was impossible to miss the subtext and I just stared at him for a few seconds, then shrugged internally and read the damn thing.
You don't always have the benefit of knowing all sides to a story, but often, even knowing only one side, conclusions can be drawn fairly accurately.
I'd say the professor was wrong in this situation no matter what happened for publicly humiliating a student and also thinking one suspicious word warrants an accusation of plagiarism. However there is nothing in the article that indicates that the professor was specifically targeting her for her race, other than 'I deal with racism every day'. Without knowing more about the situation it's hard to say more. Despite this, there's quite a few comments in this thread already that seem emotionally loaded.
Think about it this way: A while ago an article was posted about discrimination against conservative Christians in academia, and some of the discussion here was appallingly hypocritical; the same kinds of people advocating diversity in race, culture, and thought were openly admitting that they don't think Christians, as a group, should be allowed in decision-making processes, because they're obviously all gullible idiots. Does that mean when I go for my PhD I would be justified in writing my own teary blog post should someone act condescending and rude to me? Would I be justified regardless of whether the discrimination was real or perceived? Would such a post be received with positive feedback? Would I be allowed to call academia 'completely broken'?
It seemed pretty clear that the author is drawing an inference that "not your language" means "you don't speak English well enough to use this word or write like this," and therefore, that the author was cheating. I think that is a reasonable inference given the context provided, assuming it's all truthful.
It's not clear. Your own bias makes you think that's clear. The alternative is that the instructor believes it's plagiarism. This means they thinks they've seen what's in front of them before exactly as worded in uncommon scenario or they sees an odd discrepancy between that paper and prior work of hers. Several people have already showed up in the comments pointing this out with one person catching real cheaters using this method. That validates it's a hypothesis that must be ruled out as we determine what caused the decision.
Unfortunately, we don't have enough data to do that. All we can be sure of was their evidence appears weak, how they handled it should get them reprimanded/fired, and we only heard one side of the story by an individual with extreme bias on this sort of thing which pervades the whole article. So, I'd like to hear what the professor or other people there said about that event, the professor, and her. Past that, I have to address it conditionally like "If professor did this, then it might have been reasons X or Y with terrible corrective action taken. Source leans toward X based on personal experiences but no data to support either."
Note: There's also other forms of discrimination based on language besides race in terms of what you expect of different kinds of skill levels, institutions, local dialects, etc. I've had many experiences with discrimination based on how I write or speak from white and black people of both genders with women doing it much more to me than men. In the white cases, race usually had no element in it since I'm white but they were still judgmental pricks with their own biases with impact on my future. It's why I'm pro-merit and anti-superficial.
Edit: Had to change some pronouns because my own bias made me assume something. Bias is that sneaky!
The author believes that the professor is racist, and writes as if it is true.
That's all that the above poster really said. It's not an indiciation that anyone believes that this is true.
That's probably true in the sense of using racial slurs or joining the KKK or something like that, but IME of academia in grad school as an adjunct, lots of people are paternalistic or condescending—often without quite realizing that they are (which would be consistent with the original article).
Efforts to be culturally sensitive can also backfire in incredible, spectacular ways (for example: https://jakeseliger.com/2014/12/22/how-do-you-know-when-your...).
1. There's no such thing as a single reason for doing anything. Humans are too complex for that. So to frame this as a question of "she did it because of race" vs "race has nothing to do with it" is naive at best.
2. It's more or less impossible for anyone to be unaffected by race. Sociology professors are no exception. When you meet someone you've never met before, you can't (no matter how hard your try) encounter a "blank slate" of a person. Your brain would be dangerously inefficient if you didn't jump to conclusions for superficial reasons literally all the time.
Taken together, this means:
3. Clearly race had something to do with it. This shouldn't be a question. The question is exactly how much did it have to do with it.
The fact is, when you really get down to it, most people are subconsciously racist. Not a joke - most people. There have been studies on it and everything.
The real injustice is that my black students cannot earn or learn their way out of being black in America. A Caltech education doesn't help when you're pulled over by the cops. This blogger's ability to use "Hence" in a literature review won't help either.
If this is true, why the moral outrage towards the professor?
2) The professor should be better at their job (I say as a prof). I accuse students of plagiarism only if I have proof, and the last 4 times it's happened I've been able to highlight passages and provide the citation of the original paper, with the page number. Or I can show the student their peer's paper with the same exact sentences and typos. I'm sure it's plagiarism. If I can't prove it, I poke around. I ask the student to come in and describe their process to me, talk through their notes. This works. People crack, or they reveal their legit process. Sometimes that legit process includes a crappy first draft that got immensely better via four sessions with the Writing Center. Great. Sometimes their not-quite-legit process involves too much help from their girlfriend. Then we have a talk about what's appropriate and how they can rectify the situation.
As such, we can recognize the harmful effect of fallacies such as racial prejudice, both on ourselves and on society as a whole, and utilize our ability as sentient beings to avoid such behavior.
Just as unlikely as a priest being a pedophile.
It is simply never OK to try and put someone down, even more so when you are someones administrative superior.
Your priors are naive. To be honest.
As disgusting and racist as the kinds of haters they claim to oppose. About the only one that seemed especially fair among the supporters of her claims was one claiming the post itself might be highly-biased due to it being a catharsis of sorts that may lead to a constructive response to her situation she hasn't elaborated on. I could easily see that possibility being it's her personal blog & she left identifying information off. Past that, I knew I shouldn't comment as specific people there would disqualify it on color/gender, imply I couldn't conceive similar things, imply the stated bias was true since it was a minority that claimed to experience it, and drag me into a bunch of tangents unrelated to data original source provided. That's what they did to the others. Hence, my suspicion it would happen to me.
 I review this from perspective of a white male who grew up in mostly black areas where hating on whites was norm and redneck areas that weren't big on intellectual or "soft" types. I experienced subtle and overt racism + discrimination constantly that hurt my education, cost me jobs, got me targeted by authority figures more, got me served last at lunch lines, question whether I was the problem, etc. So, I have to work extra hard maintaining balance and rational approach to reviewing stuff when the comments basically act like I never experienced that or play it off as existential vs circumstantial or some other nonsense. Yes, we do experience it with those of us in minority areas experiencing it at the level of blacks except there's more beatdowns of us and murder in general. That they keep pretending we don't despite our claims and journal introspection being almost identical to theirs is itself a form of racism. I always point that out in case someone assumes I'm a white, suburban guy from middle class home in a white area going to college on a football scholarship or something.
To be clear, the beyond a jerk move part is doing this in front of the class with such flimsy evidence. I have see this before. It happened to a black woman friend. In this case the professor's flimsy evidence was a shift in tone which happens in editing all the time.
That said, hence is an adverb and not a conjunction. Hence there is no comma after hence. BTW, this punctuation mistake argues strongly against plagiarism.
Having looked it up a bit, it still goes both ways. The argument against the comma is that if hence is a transitional word then you would omit the comma. If you feel the need for a pause then you would insert it.
So it's a fielder's choice and not a mistake.
Considering how viciously accusations and personal vendettas can be carried out online, I think it's a great mark of character that she refrained from such tactics and explained the injustice she felt in a levelheaded way.
However, this doesn't excuse the alleged behaviour of the professor in the article. When making a plagiarism accusation, is it common to call this out openly without attempting to address 1-1 first in academic settings?
You know, like the fruits of searching Google for five seconds to try and locate "the offending phrase"?
What kind of a fucking fossil can't be bothered to at least substantiate their bigotry instead of ranting themselves out of a job? (And no, tenure doesn't cover obvious failure to abide by university policies. Of course it could just as well have been some adjunct making $8/hour)
"Hey there, you with the beaner name. I have absolutely no evidence of wrongdoing on your part, so go fetch me some"
What a twit. I'm not a particularly nice person and have no problem failing students who won't put in the work, but this is beyond the pale.
If she is right then what he did was heinous. If I'm right then what she did was pretty bad too.
How are you possibly interpreting this passage as not an accusation of plagiarism?
Its a terrible thing to be falsely accused. Especially so when it is by a person in authority and in front of others and when the accuser has the power to issue a grade. I hope that this article helps professors deal more sensitively with their concerns over plagiarism in the internet age.
"Hence" is fairly common in modern English, but is it common in the writings of this student?
One such example of this is that one of my students used a "while not in" loop which they had never done before. I looked at it puzzled for a second and then went "wait a minute, one of my other students used this in every lab since we introduced the while statement". I pull up the code, compare it, and BAM! I've got a match.
Just because something is possible/correct in a language and that the person wiring the piece has every bit of ability to use the complex structure at had it doesn't mean they would normally do so. Sure it's not accurate, and sure you may not be right with every call (hasn't happened to me yet but other TAs have called people out and have turned out to be wrong), but it's something that I'd call a "clue" that something is different.
Either the student put more time into the work and found a better/alternate way of approaching the problem, the student asked a friend to help with describing the structure (or in this case what wording to use), or in the only case that presents malice: they copied it.
The only way you can find out is by going to the student and confidently saying something to the effect of "I know you've engaged in some questionalbe academic behavior, this is your time to explain yourself before I contact my boss and have them run a more though investigation". Cheaters usually crack instantly. (pro-tip for anyone on the outside who is cheating: just lie to us, we're probably not going to follow up unless it's extremely obvious if you've got a 1/4 way decent explanation).
I see nothing wrong with this. Just talk to the professors boss and they'll sort it out. This is especially true for cases where you actually did write the work.
Also, I highly doubt anyone questions the intellect of the writer. They are obviously a gifted person.
For some reason, I immediately thought of that popular video: "Don't talk to the police." Today, I'd probably assume that if you're fishing for a confession, then you don't have any evidence, and your "boss" doesn't exist. For instance, when I was an adjunct, I didn't have support like that from my department.
What I don't know is how I'd have reacted as a college student with less confidence and street smarts, and with a possibly justifiable fear of antagonizing a teacher.
Absolutely. Never talk to me either. Never talk to the professor. Tell them "an investigation is better as it will prove your innocence and resolve the issue more quickly then my explanations will" and walk away if you did cheat. If the prisoners dilemma all over again especially since it takes 2 to cheat in most cases.
> For instance, when I was an adjunct, I didn't have support like that from my department.
I'm different in that I'm not a professor, I help teach and grade a class so I work underneath a professor who allows me to lecture some times and help guide the class but it's not "my" class. As a grader I see all the students work and as an attentive grader I memorize the students names and styles. When I catch a cheater I email my boss and the professor I work under and they advise me on what to do (which is usually to allow me to write my strongly worded letter of doom that anyone who's done something iffy on the internet has received once or twice). The policy in this programming class is that it's not cheating if you credit each other with parts of the work you've done but the less astute observers won't remember that and will try and hide their work.
> What I don't know is how I'd have reacted as a college student with less confidence and street smarts, and with a possibly justifiable fear of antagonizing a teacher.
Some of these kids are in other classes I'm taking and they are still afraid when I bring it up. It's the fear that I will involve the administration that works here. The carrot or the stick. They assume I'm the carrot and I'm going to just mark them zero if they fess up. They assume that the school is the stick and they will get the full penalty.
If it were up to me any cheating would be handled officially through the university but that isn't our SOP. We find cheaters usually fail. As such we just tell them "we know and we are going to give you a 0 for this and next exam". That usually deters cheating as they need to retake the class then.
While in college, my writing style changed from week to week, as I was influenced by professors, my readings, and so forth. That was in my humanities courses. I didn't take any programming courses while in college.
I'm kind of glad that I finished college before the Internet age. I never cheated, but am glad that I didn't have to work in such an adversarial atmosphere.
I'm sure it's not your intention, but "stop and accuse" sounds a lot like "stop and frisk." It sounds like a recipe for abuse.
> This morning, my professor handed me back a paper (a literature review) in front of my entire class and exclaimed “this is not your language.”
I try not to get mad and I try to be as objective as possible but after I know for sure it is very disappointing. It's a reflection of my abilities I feel.
Everyone cheats in some way. What I am concerned about is disingenuous cheating where a student obviously is preforming poorly in non-adverse conditions and decides to take it upon themselves to rectify the situation in a non-productive manor.
So the next time your write an HN comment and don't misspell "hand" we will know that you've plagiarized.
Unfortunately some people don't seem to understand that there is a correlation between vocabulary, work flow, word choice, and the writer.
Whether they wrote it themselves comes out pretty quickly, even if they won't admit to cheating. If a student can't explain his or her work, then you have a basis for giving a lower grade or pressing on the cheating accusation.
After the recent midterm we gave out for one of my students I received two copes of the exam, one had a 20pts higher grade. Due to errors made on our side of the line it seemed as if the student had taken the exam, left a room, and taken it again at another room to score higher. We thought as soon as we saw him that he was a nice kid and so we should go lighter on him. All it did was freak the kid out. He couldn't make full sentences without stuttering because he thought we knew he was cheating.
I think this falls on a fault of our own. We didn't ask the right questions--the professor and I. We asked "did you take two copies of the exam" and he said yes, we then asked "did you change rooms" and he didn't respond, he just looked confused. We took him to my boss and my boss just gave him the exams and said "can you explain this". After that the kid went and explained exactly what happened.
I don't know if it's coming across correctly but basically we lead him into telling us he cheated. We "knew" that he cheated when it was really an error on our side. My boss was level headed and just said that we would start an investigation into cheating if he cannot explain himself and tell us what happened that day. When given the change rather then asked leading questions he was better able to articulate himself. It's my opinion now that asking any questions is a horrible idea for confronting a cheater. You just need to tell them what information you have and how this is going to be bad for them and they can fill in the blanks otherwise you will have accidentally lead them into a trap where they say they did something that they obviously didn't do as in the case of this student.
The professor did the first and evidently only the first.
If the student does nothing then I'd assume they did copy.
I'm sure people will be mad about these assumptions but from my experience--and from what I've seen my colleges fall into after wrongly accusing someone of cheating--I'd definitely say this is an appropriate average model. I'd also say it's lived to fruition in this case. The author got mad and wrote a fantastic expose on this situation. If I was the professor I'd correct what was obviously my mistake at this point.
The student is usually happier to have that it seems since they get to say "I fought the law and the law didn't win" to their friends and classmates. The teacher does look like an idiot to the class after that though.
It may well come a time when I make the same mistake but at that point I'll be excited to admit I was wrong and restore credit. I'm not ashamed at failing myself, only know-it-all-do-nothings are afraid of ruining their street cred.
I find the story hard to believe only because it is so terrible -- and that an academic would be stupid enough to accuse a student of plagiarism without concrete evidence (in particular, the text from which they plagiarised). However, even if the academic in question had such evidence, they still should give the student the chance to defend themselves.
That said, I know of a few professors that could get away with this shit. There are always a few professors that are thoroughly entrenched.
Simone's Maxims are possibly the best piece of career advice anyone ever gave me.
At least she's learning this early in the game. She's clever and tough and will either go far or be smart enough to make much more money at a real job.
Her prof? Not so much.
Be the change you want to see in the world ;-)
(Ha ha only serious. Being an idealist made me cynical. Then it brought me back again. In the end we only have each other, those who we live and love and work with, in this world. It may as well be the best world we can make it.)
I'm not saying that's the case, because I have no evidence either way.
Also, it's not like she's going against the grain here. Academia, especially where the humanities are concerned, is overwhelmingly leftist in this country. An accusation of racism in one of these departments is socially damning. If she were a conservative Catholic arguing in defense of sexual morality during a gender studies class at one of our glorified ivy league universities or women's colleges, then I'd say she's got courage. However, this is not the case. Her choice of language indicates that she is riding briskly and blandly on the profitable coattails of the oppression gravy train. Whether it is calculated or merely the result of intellectual error upon intellectual error is another matter altogether.
Bottom line: these shows of support she's receiving are not only inappropriate, but presumptuous. This idea that we must believe what people say on their own authority, or based on their feelings (constrained by the prevailing ethos, of course), with no evidence is a worrying trend in left-leaning humanities departments.
I've come across jerk teachers myself. I have been suspected of plagiarism when my essays exceeded the average length for the class. I've had arrogant teachers presume things in ways that defy common sense. Just because some teacher is an ass (and for the purposes of this post I'll grant her that much) doesn't mean there's any reason to invoke all of that baggage. Victimization ideology is a pathological condition that's being propagated by leftist academics that does severe harm to those concerned. It's used for political gain in the Alinsky style and has the effect of entrenching poverty and cultural pathologies. Sure, upper middle class white (or occasionally black, etc) academics can generate this vile substance with no effect on them, but it does have a real affect on those whom it concerns.
This isn't a trial, and no one is trying to raise a pitchfork army, as far as I can tell. So, what else do you believe she should do to make it acceptable for her to tell this story, or for people to express sympathy for her unpleasant experience?
If he or she just handed her the paper back with that scrawled on it that's a dick move, absolutely, but she's reading a lot into "those aren't your words" and doesn't provide any information that backs up her claim her prof is racist.
I checked out her blog and the comment section is full of posters piling on the prof for being "racist".bHow do they know this? Became a stranger on the internet says so? The mob mentality that self-righteous liberals exhibit doesn't help them much in the credibility and integrity department.
From Strunk & White:
"Exclamations. Do not attempt to emphasize simple statements by using a mark of exclamation.
The exclamation mark is to be reserved for use after true exclamations or commands."