It's always 1 in 5...


For the past year, I’ve been an adjunct at a University in NYC teaching a master’s level computer science course on Web and Internet concepts.

It has been a great experience and enjoyable for the most part. However, this past semester I walked away from the experience, of teaching 2 sections (~60 total students) disappointed. The disappointment is the amount of flagrant plagiarism and total disregard for proper attribution when submitting work as their own.

The idea of “an original creation” is completely lost on the majority of these students. And to top it off, a complete lack of acknowledgement and regard for magnitude of the actions. Even after an incident where students “bit-for-bit” used the exact same “source code” for an assignment submission, numerous responses of “I didn’t know” we couldn’t do that. Are you kidding me?

Further conversations with other students at the institution indicate the problem is rampant and few instructors take the time to deal with it. They allow it to continue, known to all, and leaving those students that are actually there to learn to feel as if they’re participating in a diploma mill.

Beyond that, it’s left a permanent mark in my mind that graduates of this institution basically aren’t to be of the caliber and skill level they need to be to blend into a highly competitive space based upon their academic achievements. That’s unfortunate to the ones that do try.

For my part I did my best to flag those that copied, duplicated, flagrant plagiarized their work with zero attribution when needed. They received zeros.

Then come the emails and sob stories and blatant denial by the students that seem to have short term memories or some expectation that their grade shouldn’t reflect their real performance or effort. The stories of “oh it affects my GPA, my scholarship, etc.” come fast and furious. You know what? It should affect those things. In fact, if you can’t do the work do something else. I don’t want a graduate of an institution that I represent ending up in this field only to have the organization determine that we suck at preparing those that need to be ready.

Fair warning

It’s not like these folks didn’t know – they just didn’t care; nor did they act or perform at the level of a master level student. Fair warning provided:

From the Syllabus: "It is also academically dishonest to submit anything in electronic form as one's own that is the work, either fully or in part, of someone else"

For those that are concerned it will affect their grade – it will. For those concerned it will affect their GPA — it should. In fact, that effect should be the proper recognition of how you truly applied yourself to the subject you registered for.

Still those that tried

In the end, there are about 1 in 5 students that took this serious. They did the work, they submitted original work. They attributed from day 1 where they needed to - if they copied, used, or in any manner took advantage of someones work. Again, these are master level students and this is expected. Welcome to the big league and real world.

For those that tried I appreciate the effort and this is why I do this. There are enough of these bright minds that act like sponges and look for more to do and try. Thank goodness as given the level of rampant disregard and just get me a diploma attitude there wasn't much else to look forward to..