Recent surveys at Cambridge University reveal that about half of its students plagiarize, and only about one in twenty are caught. Sad, but not terribly surprising given the rise of the internet, wealthy students, and greedy essay-writing internet services. Interestingly enough, 82% reported taking material from Wikipedia (wow, how imaginative).
But this is where it gets truly bad:
“Joint Information Systems Committee found that even repeat offenders were unlikely to be thrown off courses for cheating. Only 143 students caught cheating were expelled out of 9,200 cases – despite almost all universities threatening expulsion as a sanction. The study found that the most common penalty was to have to re-submit work.”
Half of the students cheat, only one in 20 are caught, and of those who were caught, only one in 64 cases resulted in expulsion (and those might well have been repeat offenders). Their punishment? A second chance to turn in the assignment, well after the stressful situation that prompted them to plagiarize in the first place has died down.
Unfortunately, it’s true here as well as in England. I have found out the hard way that punishment for plagiarism comes only if an instructor sticks to his policies; the instructor is put on the defensive, and not the student. It was once suggested to me that I let a plagiarizing student redo his work to make the situation into a “learning experience.” Funny, I think that’s what I’d intended the first time I wrote the assignment . . .