Wednesday, April 30, 2008

It Ain't Over Yet

This is turning out to be an exhausting week.

First, we had two job candidates on campus this week. We have made a decision, and really hope that our offer gets accepted. Otherwise, it's back to the application pile.

It's been interesting being on this side of the search. One thing that surprised me somewhat--although it makes perfect sense--was how much personality mattered. Because we're a very small department, we work together pretty closely and see a LOT of each other, so trying to figure out how well we could all work with these people was a big part of the process. The results were pretty clear in this case, although they were both lovely people and highly qualified. Oh--that's the other thing. I already knew that billions of excellent candidates are still out on the market, but this process has confirmed it. We've received well over 50 applications (I don't have an exact count) and many of them were outstanding. Even the ones who clearly weren't a fit for us were, for the most part, very impressive. I'm surprised that I got this job last year. I wouldn't have hired me, given my criteria.

Second, I'm in the midst of the grading. I will not be finishing today, by the way. I haven't even started my survey papers because I have spent untold hours already this week dealing with my plagiarism cases. I met with three students in the last two days, and it was awful. Awful. This is the first time I've had students deny their plagiarism, and they all did it in different ways: flat-out denial; declaration of ignorance ("What, I didn't cite that right?"); desperate pleading. The pleading was the worst: I actually started to cry when s/he left my office (don't worry--the student didn't see that). And now one of them is threatening to bring in his/her lawyer. I keep telling Said Student to go to my chair, who is next on the due-process list, but s/he just keeps sending me pissed-off emails. (Well, okay, s/he has sent me two, but that's plenty.) The defense? "I cited an article, but I did it wrong--so you're failing me for making a mistake." Um. As I said about 25 times in our meeting, you cited a different article. You can't just drop citations into your paper at random--especially when much of that paper is cut-and-pasted off the internet--and call that "proper attribution of materials."

Ugh. I hate this.

Because then I start beating myself up about how maybe I didn't really teach them how to cite and it's all my fault, and I'm a horrible vindictive person and I'm ruining their careers, etc etc. But I've been talking about citation all semester. If they don't get it yet, well....

And I've posted my comp grades, which means that I now have a couple of disappointed/angry students emailing me to know why they did so poorly. Their grades are perfectly justified, but I have to go back and look them up and email them and just generally face a lot of unpleasantness.

At least the utterly lousy weather of the last few days is finally blowing over.

Okay. I need to start thinking about facing my final batch of papers (which should be better and less plagiarized, thank God). And I need to think about next week, when it will all be over and everyone will be GONE and I can think about other things.


wil said...

Ugh. I hate confrontation. I feel for you.

I'm curious, do you make it known that it's pretty easy to catch instances of plagiarism...or do you simply make a boilerplate "don't plagiarize" statement? I wonder if it would make any difference?

Belle said...

Lordy, me too. I ran into this problem a while back - a rash of it. So I stood up in class and said, okay. Here's the difference.

You fail.
You don't fail.

See what a difference a single word makes? Words matter.

Since then? No bitching about that kind of stuff, even from successive waves of protesting students.