Plagiarism is Dead, Or So Some Would Say College Life / Writing & Grammar

Hello everyone:

Plagiarism, in my opinion, is alive and well in college classrooms across the world. However, not everyone agrees.

Take, for example, an online college where I have taught for many years. When I first arrived, virtually speaking, I was told that plagiarism would not be accepted in any way, shape, or form. Great! We’re on the same page. Stealing someone else’s work and calling it your own is exactly that: stealing. Students who do this aren’t getting an education in anything except thievery. I am right on this with you, administration. Alleluia!

Then, a couple of years ago, the college told us that we could not longer accuse anyone of plagiarism (apparently, it hurt the students’ feelings when they got caught), so now we were going to rename it “a teachable moment.”

Come again???? Seriously? And, to top it all off, a student was allowed three such moments in a single class. Okay, let me understand you. A student can, without any deduction in points, steal three papers per term and that will be fine. Buddy, there are only four writing assignments in my class. If a student has presented three documents that are not his or hers our of the four assignments, why would I bother to report him or her at that point in the term? Because of due dates, there would only be one day left of class.

So much for their “teachable moments.” I told a survey that I had to take from the school administration that I would no longer report any plagiarism because it wasn’t worth the hoops they made me jump through to document the plagiarism. They stumbled a bit, but I still teach for them. (Please note that, previously, I had won 100% of the cases I brought before the Honor Council. I guess they have disbanded that group!)

The latest is that “teachable moments,” as of a few weeks ago, have now become “text similarities.” I wonder how many the student can have, since it is no longer stealing. And it’s definitely not plagiarism. Apparently. I didn’t bother to ask.


Dr. Sheri

P.S. I just wanted to add a brief note that I am so grateful to be working full time for a university that still has an honor code and takes plagiarism very seriously. In the time I have been there, I have not found a single student cheating on even one assignment. Students are held to a very high standard and they respect that. That is a relief and leaves me feeling that the future is bright as these young people prepare for positions of leadership in our nation and in the business world.


Sheri Dean Parmelee has a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Regent University. She writes books on practical tips for people who become unexpectedly unmarried and is working on her second novel in a series of contemporary romance/suspense novels. She teaches at three colleges, working with students from freshmen to graduate students. Her hobbies include running 8 miles a day and reading biographies and fiction.

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