I recently caught my semesterly plagiarist. This one came with some especially enraging particulars--but really, don't they all?
More surprising than the details of this case is what I discovered while assembling the paperwork to make a formal charge of academic dishonesty. I hadn't received certain documents back from my department chair, who was out of town, so she directed me and her secretary to the place in her office where I could find them: among a stack of other pending plagiarism charges. Rifling through these to find mine, I discovered that not one, not two, but three of the students I've charged with plagiarism in the past have new charges being brought against them by my colleagues.
I'd like to say that this gave me some sense of satisfaction, but really it just depressed me. Being caught once, you'd think, would put the fear of God in a student, especially since RU has a policy of two-strikes-and-you're-out (i.e., dismissed from the college). One of the students I caught in the past was radically unsmart and already failing my class, so I'm not surprised she did it again. But my other past plagiarists were canny and mostly diligent students, whom I even rather liked, and I'd have hoped that they'd have learned from the experience.
But if I've learned anything, now, it's this: it's not personal. It may feel as though my plagiarists are saying that they don't think I'm smart enough to catch them--but apparently they think equally poorly of my colleagues and of themselves: that they're not smart enough to do their own work, or make time to do their own work, or get help when they need it, or recognize when they shouldn't be in college in the first place.
Maybe this will keep me from dissolving in a rage the next time I catch one.