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Get Me Out of This!

Tuesday, May. 31, 2011

$50 Amazon gift certificate to the best student response on this case received by midnight, June 5.

Since he was a little boy, Sam has always been able to count on his father. When Sam was in grade school, his dad went to bat for him if a teacher didn't treat him fairly. In high school, Sam appreciated when his father made sure he got plenty of playing time on the basketball team, and he learned more from his father than from the English teacher when his dad helped him with assignments.

Now, at the end of his freshman year of college, Sam has a real problem. His psychology professor has found a couple of lines in the final paper he just turned in that were copied directly from an article in a professional journal. Sam does not dispute that the lines were from the journal, which he included in his bibliography, but he explains to the teacher that he simply forgot to put quotations around them and cite them in this one instance. The teacher is not impressed by his explanation, and has given him a failing grade on this very important assignment.

Sam calls his dad to complain about the situation, and his father is indignant that the professor is being so "rigid." He offers to call the department chair and protest Sam's grade. Should Sam involve his father in this matter?

Here are some resources that may be helpful:

Here are some resources that may help:

Helicopter Parents (The Tufts Daily)

A Framework for Ethical Decision Making



Comments Comments

Ben Chinoy said on May 31, 2011
Sam needs to grow up and do so quickly. Sams father must also start to let Sam create his own path in life. His Dad cant keep bullying teachers and coaches to help his son succeed. In this specific situation, Sams father should not speak with the teacher! If Sam really did forget to put quotes on his essay, he must go in and see the teacher himself. However, if Sam knows that he did cheat, he should not argue with the teacher about his grade, but learn his lesson and move on. If Sam is caught cheating when he has a real job later in life, he wont receive an F. He will instead be fired. If Sam learns his lesson now, however, he will know never to make that kind of mistake again. One approach I found on the ethics center website that Sam could use is the Common Good Approach. This approach suggests that the interlocking relationships of society are the basis of ethical reasoning and that respect and compassion for all others-especially the vulnerable-are requirements of such reasoning (A Framework for Thinking Ethically). In short, Sam needs to think about how he would feel if someone else copied and took credit for his work. It is a matter of respect for others work, and he needs to learn to respect them so they can in turn respect him. Sam also has to think about his own situation and make sure the action he decides to take in response to his mistake, is one he will not later regret. He must also speak with his father after he has either talked with his teacher or reflected upon his actions and learned his lesson. Sam needs to start making his own decisions so he will have some experience living on his own, and he should tell his father that. This will be crucial to his success later in life when he is living in his own home without his parents. In fact, according to the article Helicopter parents have trouble letting college students grow up in the Tufts Daily newspaper, an assistant Professor of Child Development, Tama Leventhal, claims "teens have to learn how to become more autonomous and independent and learn how to rely on themselves and make their own decisions." In Sams case, he has a good opportunity to grow up here and establish some independence from his father while learning a valuable and powerful lesson about the importance of citing work in the process. - Like - 24 people like this.
Mikaila Read said on May 31, 2011
Whether or not Sam's failure to put quotations around the article information or cite it was truly an accident or if it was intentional, Sam is responsible for plagiarism. Most university's policies outline that unintended plagiarism merits the same attention and consequences as intended plagiarism because of what a serious matter plagiarism is. The fact that Sam has proven to be wary of plagiarism in the past does not help his case. It merely proves how careless Sam was to turn in a final paper with any question of plagiarism lurking about it. Lets look at a potential parallel to Sams behavior. Assume Sam has the night shift in a particular job, which requires him to lock up the establishment each night. He always locks up. Not once has he neglected to do so. Now, assume that one night Sam forgets to lock up, and the establishment is subsequently robbed. The fact that Sam did not intentionally leave the establishment unlocked, and has never done so in the past, does not somehow negate the fact that he is responsible for the negative instances that followed his one failure to lock up. This situation is the exact situation Sam finds himself in academically. His careless mistake is something he alone deserves the effects of, not something he needs to be bailed out of by his father. From a Virtue Approach to ethics, it is because Sam has failed to be virtuous that he finds himself in this dilemma in the first place. He has not been prudent in this instance, he has potentially stained his academic integrity, and he is showing intolerance of his professor by complaining about the situation he alone got himself into. Perhaps there are some appropriate instances for a parent to discuss their child's grade/progress with an instructor, but certainly not with the attitude that battle is at hand, and certainly not in a college setting. As a college student, one is expectantly an adult, and will likewise be treated as an adult. Sam alone is responsible for his schoolwork, and is likewise deserving of the ill and positive effects of his work. His father has no place in the matter and should not be dragged into it. - Like - 11 people like this.
Cameron Tow said on Jun 1, 2011
Sam should not let his dad intervene in this situation. At some point Sam needs to learn both how to stand up for himself and how to take responsibility for his own mistakes. It's great that Sam's dad supports him so much, but Sam is not always going to have that safety net, and the sooner he learns how to live without it, the better. Knowing that you are going to be held accountable for everything you do is one of the most important lessons to learn in college. Even though it sounds like Sam made an honest mistake, he still needs to take responsibility and accept the consequences because careless mistakes can have terrible consequences. If Sam were out of school and writing that psychology paper for a journal, he could be sued by the author he plagiarized from, he could lose his job, and he could find himself in a big mess. The results of Sam's mistake in the psychology class are nowhere near that magnitude, which is why it's a good time for him learn to deal with his own problems (and hopefully be more careful) before he encounters a crisis that his dad can't bail him out of. - Like
Deepti Shenoy said on Jun 1, 2011
Probably Sam was just being careless when he did the assignment. I don't think he deliberately plagiarized, since there were only a couple of lines that weren't properly quoted. In my opinion, the professor could have afforded to be a little less harsh. That being said, Sam must have known the importance of citing correctly, and he still didn't bother to put in the effort to do it right. He should count himself lucky that he just got an "F" on the assignment, rather than failing the class or getting expelled, which is the penalty for academic integrity violations at some colleges. I don't think he should involve his father in the matter. Sam is an adult, and it's time for him to take on adult responsibilities. - Like
Miriam Schulman said on Jun 3, 2011
I'm a parent, so I can relate to Sam's dad. He sees a situation he thinks is unfair and he wants to come to his son's defense. It's pretty instinctual. But I've also been a college teacher, and I can think of few things that would have irritated me more than having a father call me to dispute a grade. This would definitely not convince me to alter my evaluation; instead, it would make me think the student was not yet ready for university-level work. Perhaps even more important than the content of University courses is the opportunities that college affords to take on the responsibilities of adult life. This one is on Sam. - Like
David DeCosse said on Jun 3, 2011
"The child is father of the man." The great English poet William Wordsworth wrote that line in the hope that his delight as a child in the beauty of nature would produce the same delight in the natural world as he became a man. But his insight extends more broadly, too. How we are shaped and shape ourselves as children produces in us our ethical inclinations as adults. What is it we love? What are we inclined to do? It is important to note that these are inclinations, not actions. The work of teaching ethics in college is in part is to push the issue of personal responsibility by bringing those inclinations, for good or for ill, into conversation with standards of right and wrong, of good and evil. What are good loves and what are bad ones? How do I choose to pursue an inclination in light of doing right or seeking the good? On the basis of what standards or on account of what habits? For years Sam's father may have lovingly sought to get the best for his son. But now is the time to stop. Sam must start to assume more of the responsibility for his moral formation and deal with his plagiarized paper in a forthright way. A father's love can help a child only so far. Then the child must start to father himself into his future. - Like
Courtney said on Jun 5, 2011
Yes, Dad should get involved in coaching Sam to understand--thoroughly--his error, to prove that he is capable of avoiding the mistake next time (by assigning him a research paper on incidents of plagiarism in university, for instance, citing solid research accurately with a citation scheme of choice), and to pursue opportunities to salvage his grade in the course or his overall GPA (taking the course again to earn a higher grade, for example). Sam deserves the treatment he got, but it's not an acceptable stopping place for his academic growth or success. We all make mistakes, but the consequences and opportunities to practice help us to avoid repeating the mistakes. Sam should take his consequence and undertake some additional practice to avoid repeating his error. If Sam's dad wants to help, he should help Sam avoid another mistake. - Like
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Tags: parents, plagiarism