Is Humiliation an Ethically Appropriate Response to Plagiarism?

by Loye Young

Editor’s Note: In mid-November, 2008, Loye Young was dismissed from his position as a part-time faculty member at Texas A & M International University. Young had told his students that plagiarism in his course assignments would result in public humiliation in addition to any punishment doled out under the auspices of university policies. He subsequently found that half a dozen of his students had engaged in plagiarism and he published their names on his course blog on November 3rd.

I’m a business owner in Laredo, Texas. I had never taught a college course before, and I never asked to teach. The department asked me to teach this course. I accepted because of my commitment to Laredo’s future.

I worked hard on the syllabus, and everything in the syllabus was deliberate. Specifically, the language about dishonesty was based on moral and pedagogical principles. The department chairman, Dr. Balaji Janamanchi, reviewed the syllabus with me line-by-line, and I made a few changes in response to his comments.

I was surprised by how common and blatant plagiarism turned out to be. Six students in one class is an extraordinarily high number. I thought and prayed about what to do for

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2 Comments for “Is Humiliation an Ethically Appropriate Response to Plagiarism?”

  1. By the way, I have at least one or two students a semester who
    try to blatantly plagiarize, usually by copying something off
    of a website. These particular cases are laughably easy to
    spot, either because the student has not bothered to even
    change the font and the formatting from the website to their
    paper, or because of the blatant change from student language
    to advanced literary criticism. Those are generally easy to
    catch and most of the time I catch it when the students are
    turning in drafts, so I can reprimand them then or use it as a
    teachable moment.

    Ghostwritten papers are a little bit different, but still
    catchable. If you have students write regularly in class,
    even something like a 1-3 minute timed writing, which you
    review and give back to them, then by 1/3 of the way into
    the semester, you have a sense of their error patterns and
    the way they write.

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to detect 90% of plagiarism
    cases in the classroom, and you don’t have to be an academic
    policeman. It just takes a little bit of wiliness and
    attention. Some cases are always going to slip through, but
    much of it can be stopped.

  2. I guess I would like to know what preparation you had and why
    you were asked to teach the class. You talk about pedagogical
    principles, which sounds like you had some training in education,
    even though earlier in the article you had said that you had
    never taught a class. Do you have a PhD or a Master’s Degree?
    What kind of business do you own?

    My other, related question,
    was that if you care so much about Laredo, why would you accept
    a teaching position that you were unqualified for? What made
    the department chair ask you?

    I’m not meaning this to be mean or unpleasant. I just think there
    is probably more to the story than what you included here. Not
    coincidentally, I am always reminding my students to put
    everything that we need to understand the situation in their
    papers and not to leave us guessing on important details!

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