I am a TA at a Canadian University . . .

Reddit, December 26, 2011

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.

The most annoying part: neither of us even wants to teach this class.

What do you think, Reddit?

EDIT: Lots more replies here than I anticipated, so thanks for that! I’m trying to reply to everyone who’s given useful advice, but it’s pretty late and I have to go to bed soon. Still, I’ll try to get back to everyone in the morning, at the very least.

EDIT 2; SUNDAY AFTERNOON: Wow, this went absolutely nuts. There’s no way I can respond to everyone, but thank you all for your advice (and your jokes, too).

My prof and I have decided to take this situation directly to the department chair and describe exactly what’s going on. As much as we tend to agree that it would be best for us to just pass the papers along without any comment about the strange racial clustering that took place, mizike’s comment is an astute one. All the cards have to be on the table if the chair is to take this seriously and provide the right sort of guidance.

We’re also going to follow the advice of some other posters here and ask the chair if she thinks we ought to go to the HRC ourselves to get them to provide additional scrutiny. hmasing’s comment here gives the best account of what that should probably look like. I’m somewhat nervous about this, but we’ll see what the chair says first.

All of this could come to nothing, and I really hope it does. In the best-case scenario, the students will get their zeros (just on the assignments, not in the course in its entirety), learn a valuable lesson about etc., and we can all move on to the next round of papers.

If there’s still any interest, I can post a follow-up about all this later in the week. With luck, it will just be to say that everything went better than expected. Here’s hoping!

Thanks again, everyone, for all your contributions.

[Editor’s Note: This posting at Reddit.com received more than 2,500 comments, which can be read here.]

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  • sbuffalonative

    When I was in college, I saw a familiar pattern.

    On the first day of class, blacks would show up to get the syllabus which would list assignment and test dates and class requirements. After that, blacks would attend sporadically.

    On the last day of class, when the class ended, blacks would form a line at the instructors desk to give them their sob story as to why they didn’t complete assignments and deserve a better grade or reasons why they shouldn’t fail the course.

  • Wild Bill

    Yes, its racism to fail the Black students for plagiarism because of Jim Crow, slavery and white supremacy.

  • Charles

    These students are keeping Martin Luther King’s REAL legacy alive!

  • Anonymous

    Blacks do not belong in, and cannot cope with, White society. Their inability to follow simple standards of honesty, decency, and reciprocity should prove this to anyone not already brainwashed in the myth of black superiority.

  • Wayne

    Hey TA…don’t worry about the fact all the plagiarists are Black because it is a cultural thing. You see, diversity is a wonderful concept we are told so what you are observing is a little diversity in the broad category of honesty. And if President Obama and the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King can plagiarize, why should the Blacks in your class not be allowed to do likewise?

  • Anonymous

    Sad as it is, the TA and professor should just pass the black plagiarists. The cost of a lawsuit would be severe and they’d be punished regardless the outcome. Even though EVERYONE would know that they were 100% right from the beginning.

  • Anonymous

    If you want to help these kids, then call them on the plagiarism and have them write the essay again. Sadly, this is a career limiting move for you.

    Ironically, if you were a racist and wanted them to do poorly later in life, do nothing and give them above-average grades to encourage this behavior. They will learn nothing other than life is a cheat. Post graduation the real world will be less tolerant, unless they become politicians.

  • Anonymous

    Quivering in their boots in the liberal bastion of “tolerance”. Pathetic. Where they should go, they did go: the internet.

  • Colonel Taylor

    These young people are just following in the footsteps of the great Martin Luther King. Stop being mean-spirited racists!

  • Question Diversity

    What to do?

    Rational world: Suspend the plagiarists.

    Absurdistan (formerly known as Canada): Repudiate academic regulations against plagiarism, because they have a disparate impact on “visible minorities,” and also invisible minorities, presumably visible minorities who perfected the invisibility cloak. Fall all over yourself to apologize for ever having university codes against plagiarism, and stuff down the memory hole any good decent reasons why anti-plagiarism codes ever existed; prosecute those who dare to state those good rationales with “hate speech” statutes. Some history professor should write a book or a paper about Anti-Plagiarism attitudes in Nazi Germany; make it required reading for all students. Meanwhile, continue enforcing plagiarism codes against white students, even though they were repealed. Oh, and no photo ID to vote.

  • Anonymous

    That’s why I’ve gone to teaching online–I can’t see the students’ color. Of course, there are the names…

    p.s. I normally give my name, but not this time.

  • Anonymous

    “Strange racial clustering”? Nothing about the racial pattern seems strange to me. In fact, it’s exactly what I would expect.

  • Retired College Professor

    To be fair, as a retired college professor, during my career I caught many White students who were guilty of plagiarizing as well. Although Indian students were the WORST!

  • Howard Fezell

    “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.”

    This TA should flunk them all and then find another career. He/she will have a much fuller (and peaceful) life.

  • Anonymous

    I think each of the six students should be given an A and passed along. It will make for a bigger train wreck later on.

  • Anonymous

    They may have been admitted to the uni. because of affirmative action. Thus, they were unqualified to begin with. If you fail them, you are criticizing the uni. administrators who admitted them, the politicians who made it national policy, your own teaching methods (for not elevating them to white standards), as well as seeking to embarrass a minority group.

    If you dare fail them on this essay, what next? The probability is they will fail any objective exam you give – unless it is easy enough for everyone to pass. Next month, will you take on the uni. administrators, the politicians, et al, once again? Don’t you understand, anti-racism means then end of uni. standards?

  • Not a TA

    In my experience (using Google to check term papers), blacks plagiarize at a much higher frequency than whites. But lots of white students are slackers, and a few blacks are really great students. In the end, one has to judge each student as an individual.

  • Anonymous

    You ought to be ashamed of yourself for holding blacks up to white standards of integrity. You are a racist.

  • Jeddermann.

    “In the best-case scenario, the students will get their zeros (just on the assignments, not in the course in its entirety), learn a valuable lesson about etc., and we can all move on to the next round of papers.”

    This TA will be able to move on after getting caught in the parking lot and hammered on by a group of youfs.

    Normally too, getting a zero on an asssignment meant NOT ever being able to pass the course. That is gone now too?

  • Ian J. MacDonald

    Following in the foot steps of Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s funny how one of the items from Ron Paul’s newsletter that upset the liberals is his mentioning that King was an adulterer and plagiarist. Apparently it is now “racist” to speak truthfully about black political figures.

  • Anonymous

    Alas, when we say that it is not worth the fight to expose the plagiarists and cheaters the end result is social promotion of the incompetents (effective cheaters do not get caught so readily). Once the minority students are empowered with a diploma, diversity conscious corporations will snap them up. A few will spit them out as soon as their actual lack of talent is exposed. Regrettably, minorities, blacks especially, are wildly overrepresented in government bureaucracies and public sector jobs. By passing the plagiarists and cheats, you are helping to foster more governmental incompetence down the road. Witness the US Postal Service.

  • Mike H.

    I’d go ahead and pass them. Thanks to affirmative action(I doubt they’re in the university because they scored higher than anyone else) they’ll be getting a degree worth less than the paper it’s written on anyways.

  • Rhialto

    Since the situation occurs in a county that has a Human Rights Court, there is no reason to expect rational behaviour. Frankly, I think that the TA has made a mistake in publicizing the situation. The TA has fulfilled his/her duties by informing the the professor of the observed plagiarism. If I were the TA, I would do nothing else. The professor has the responsibility to deal with the situation; If called upon to testify, I would tell the truth, without comment. Otherwise I would keep my mouth shut about this nasty business.

  • Anglokraut

    This is about academic dishonesty–most colleges and universities have very exact standards regarding this subject. If there is an institutionalized double standard regarding the application of these rules, then I say pull out your muck-rake, anonymous TA.

    I always threw a fit when my history professor would throw out exam questions that most of the class answered incorrectly, but that I answered correctly. That professor is my hero, but I never let him get away rewarding other people’s failure without calling him on it; I always made sure he gave me extra credit, or that he kept the exam scores as they were.

  • Madison Grant

    You Canucks don’t understand; when African-Americans like the sainted Dr. King engage in plagiarism we call it “voice-merging”.

    So that makes it okay.

  • Anonymous

    What to do?

    Destroy your white privilege and the institutionalized racism that keeps others down and you up.

    Obviously.

  • John Engelman

    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.

    – Reddit, December 26, 2011

    Did they get into the university on an affirmative action policy? Or is that an inappropriate question?

  • MAK

    Actually, the solution is simple. Just fail them all for the assignment. They get a zero. End of story.

    Not only is this cowardice and racial pandering, it is an abdication of an educator’s responsibility.

    In fact, this sickening question should not even have to be raised. What kind of pointless double standard is at work here?

    Is this what things have come to – a fear of confronting students who cheat because they are black? By NOT taking action it only makes things worse down the line.

    The whole hand-wringing over what to do is a travesty.

  • Anonymous

    #20

    Since there are a number of people in every white country but the US in jail, for speaking TRUE things about race, where the truth about such things was not allowed as a defense, I do not find it one bit funny. These are political prisoners who spoke out about the genocide of our people and were punished soviet union style.

    When things are that bad, there is desperate need for a revolution. The truth about race is being used to kill us. To wipe out our families….that is the reason it is such a touchy issue.

    Here in the US, the ONLY reason it is not that bad, at least not yet, is we are in the best position, being so heavily armed and segregated to wage such a revolution….to the point that the ability to wage such a revolution politically, is partially intact. Such would be revealed after 8 years of a Ron Paul presidency. But at least they are not coming for us in the middle of the night, here in the jackboots. And if they do, the law is on our side.

    Not so, in every other white country of the world.

  • Netzach

    As the article stated, plagiarizing is widespread activity, and this TA and his professor found out other heavily suspicious papers, which weren’t written by blacks. However, what’s interesting that all completely inept plagiarizations, easy to concretely reveal as such, were submitted by blacks – and all black students in his class tried to substitute such miserable excuses of fakes for real work. They aren’t stupid, for even with heavy-handed AA, black with substandard IQs can’t really get into any proper university. Yet anyone with two functioning neurons should be able to see that you just can’t copy some article, change a few words, and expect it to pass. Either they weren’t making the slightest effort on their studies, or they just confidently expected to wheedle and intimidate their way to good grades if caught.

    It is an unfortunate mentality for all concerned to think that your own efforts or lack of them have no consequences on how well you do in life, because society is so racist, and as such, the only roads forward are various kinds of racial lobbying. Not only does this idea not make any sense (real racist society will absolutely not tolerate racialist politicking from its detested peoples), it does terrible damage to those caught in its grip. Even more darkly ironical, it arguably maintains and creates racism. There’s a chance that from now on the TA of this story will be a bit more cynical about blacks and frustrated about the “human rights” complex preventing him from maintaining academic standards and doing his duties without complex bureaucratic maneuvering. And of course these are the better kind of blacks. As for the ghetto youth with low IQ:s and bad attitudes, that poisonous idea often drives them into violent, vicious crime, which has sometimes even driven downright liberals into AmRen crowd (see the series at 5/2003, 8/2004 and 7/2005). The self-destructive way in which the contemporary bonsai liberalism champions ideas like this, which are actually toxic to its own ideals, is certainly amongst its most baffling aspects.

    Students should, of course, be treated as individuals without regard to race or other background. However, group averages do give useful hints about potential problems. For example, if blacks do on average plagiarize more, and yet some professor consistently finds out black plagiarizers at equal or lower rate to whites, and his students don’t differ from the standard of school, then that is an indication of said professor deliberately letting black frauds pass. This can then be investigated properly.

    Or in the real world, it can’t, and such professor would possibly be just quietly commended. Still, who knows what can be done when the Western scientific and technological pre-eminence decays even further, and we’ll have to start thinking very seriously on just what we can do to increase our academic standards in order to halt the process.

  • Laager

    Return their scripts with the plagiarised passages clearly identified

    Give them the lowest possible pass mark for the assignment

    Announce your decision to the entire class

    Let class peer pressure take over from there

    Win-win solution for everyone.

  • Anonymous

    Where I’m at, we pass’em all because if you don’t then the admins start breathing down your neck and blaming you for the ‘low’ pass rate. In all honesty, EVERY high school teacher I know has to teach 2nd to 3rd grade material because any more than that and the ‘students’ can’t handle it.

    It is so sad to see the charade going on day after day. Most teachers I know, and I know a lot, are happy just to get assignments turned in, whether copied or not, because more than 80% of the students (no exxageration here) do no homework of any kind.

  • rjp

    Lesson learned: Degree staus conferred to a black is not a reliable gauge competence in the field awarded. Put an asterick after it.

    BA* BS* MA* MS* JD* PhD*

    There are many black lawyers who have never, and can not, pass the bar exams – Queen Obama for one. Plenty of them working at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac signing off on paperwork too.

    Degree status does not mean competence when granted to a minority. I have said this all along about MacDaddy Herman Cain.

  • Anonymous

    Hey, TA,don’t get into such a swivet about this, Pass them along, let them get their degree and when they get out into the real, non-academic world, let them try and fail to keep a job in their chosen profession. Since they don’t actually know the material, they will not keep their jobs long, and will eventually sink to their natural level. It is the way it is, and there is no need for you to suffer for their misdeeds, and you WILL suffer if you try to point out their plagiarism. YOU will be called a racist and may never be allowed to realize your full potential and/or earning power if you let this trip you up. This is nearly 2012, and being right is no longer a valid excuse for telling the truth if it might offend a minority or hurt their precious feelings.

  • Question Diversity

    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.

    Re-read the article, and that part now jumps out at me where missed it at first. Translated into English, this means that it’s not just black students that are cheating, but the blacks are so bad at cheating that they’re easiest to spot and catch. Just like a lot of real life black violent crime.

  • RegvlvsSeradly

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

    What this TA calls “plagarism” is merely a traditional aspect of Black culture. She clearly needs cultural-sensitivity training.

    Either that, or she needs to pick a few of the White students and declare them cheaters as well. After all, equality cannot be sacrificed for honesty! As the highest ideal of humankind, reality must be made to conform with equality.

    (Disclaimer: above statements intended ironically)

    Frankly this is just another common pitfall of diversity… and why I decided against teaching as a profession.

  • martin_uk

    I remember when I was doing my first degree a Nigerian student “wrote” an essay on ethics by merely copying out word for word the first two or three pages of G E Moore’s “Principia Ethica”. I tried to explain that it was highly likely the lecurer would know what he had done, but to no avail. He was too stupid to realise.

  • shaunantijihad

    Well, I’m gonna hit this from a different angle.

    Your ancestors fought to carve a civilisation out of nothing in an unforgiving wilderness, and thus they deserved that civilisation.

    You, however, are a coward. You dare not even fail cheats because you are scared of a word – racist. You will lose your civilisation to Africa or Islam as surely as did the Rhodesians and South Africans. The ultimate reality is about holding territory for your people – by all means necessary. If you relinquish that, then you lose your country and whatever else goes with that. Slavery or death most likely.

    I am a racist. Don’t tread on me.

  • Anonymous

    #38,

    “You, however, are a coward. You dare not even fail cheats because you are scared of a word – racist.”

    He’s not just afraid of being insulted. It must be understood that an accusation of racism can ruin an entire career, especially in ethnomasochist environments like many universities. If you happen to have dependents, like children, then you absolutely just can’t go on sacrificing your career for the sake of abstract principles like racial solidarity or academic standards. The fanatics certainly won’t hesitate for a single picosecond before wrecking the career you depend upon the support your kids if you insulted their dogma. Even if you didn’t have family, they’d be happy to annihilate the years you’ve worked to create a career that could sustain one.

    No one can expect any mercy in situations like this. Nothing makes a homo sapiens happier than inflicting horrible suffering on a fellow human he considers evil. Sadism and moralism are great drugs, and nothing is more enjoyable for us than mixing them.

  • hugo

    I have noticed that the Atlanta teacher cheating scandal in has disappeared down the memory hole. Perhaps when it resurfaces it will have been proven that it was all due to white racism. Don’t expect to hear anything anytime soon.

  • Anonymous

    31 — Laager wrote at 8:11 AM on December 28:

    Return their scripts with the plagiarised passages clearly identified

    Give them the lowest possible pass mark for the assignment

    Announce your decision to the entire class

    Let class peer pressure take over from there

    Win-win solution for everyone.

    ______________________________________________________

    Fantasy. These are people who largely are immune to peer pressure. And who very well could respond belligerently, even violently, to any attempt to create peer pressure.

  • Anonymous

    Cut-and-paste technique has not been mastered at my high school either–they won’t even take the time to change the font, and the parent says, “What do you care? The paper was turned in. Little Dumbotavius should get a D for tryin.”

  • Anon

    When I was teaching freshman classes 10 years ago as a grad student, my Dept Chair was teaching a senior class. Due to his “busy schedule” he one day plopped a stack of term papers from his class on my desk and “asked” me to grade them, since I had previously taken the course as an undergrad. It was a small class with only 15 students. In the mix of papers, I encountered everything from well-written, cogent prose, to utter dreck, with poor grammar and punctuation. When it came time to check sources and references, all were done mostly correct, except for one paper. Investigating further, I found this writer had plagiarized word-for-word from two very specific web sites. No attempt was even made to change or mix up the words, it was clearly a case of cut-and-paste. I looked at who wrote it, and to my surprise (not!), it was the sole black student in the class. I left a post-it note of this matter on the paper to the Dept Chair and left it to him to decide what to do.

    University policy calls for punishment of direct plagiarism to include suspension and expulsion from the school. The Dept Chair, probably not wanting to deal with the PC school administration decided to take the easy way out and simply gave the black student a “D” grade. I never asked further why he did what he did, and he never again asked me to grade any of his class’ papers.

  • sedonaman

    1. Use a yellow “stickie” to cover the students’ names on the papers;

    2. Write a unique number on each “stickie”;

    3. Photocopy the papers with names covered and numbers showing;

    4. Have a colleague grade the photocopied papers, being sure he checks for plagiarism.

  • School:

    Here’s the higher standard for whites and asians.
    And here’s the lower standard for blacks and hispanics.

    Job Hiring:

    Here’s the higher standard for whites and asians.
    And here’s the lower standard for blacks and hispanics.

    Work Load on the Job:

    Here’s the higher standard for whites and asians.
    And here’s the lower standard for blacks and hispanics.

    Paycheck Amounts:

    Must be equal of all!!!

    Layoff Time:

    Time to trim the dead wood that knows the least and works the least.

    Racist!!!

    • Michael Samuel

      This is another “suspect” story like a certain racist University professor at Montreal’s George Williams University who hated his Afro Caribbean students back in the 60’s and didn’t believe they could come from tiny islands and beat his “master race” white Anglo Saxon students in his classes & exams, stupid white Canadians did’nt realize that the English speaking Islands has a British style school system which was more vigorous than Canada’s American style high schools. I’ve written letters to ppl & institutions you get nice reply’s, but when you show up in person whitey Canuck cannot comprehend how you wrote it in the first place and start with the usual condescending racism “you claim this or that”. I love writing reports at work , I can at most times put most white Canadians to shame even the ones with “degrees” they are too busy playing video games on Laptops or putting that nice white stuff up their noses etc, (that of course must be the black Jamaicans fault!) If I were you I wouldn’t put much value in what “Reddit” website says its a social “news site” where ppl posts stories!, all students practice & conduct some sort of plagiarizing in every country and every race does it,  when whites do it its called “collaboration” but when others do the very same thing its “plagiarizing” much like conquest called “manifest destiny”.