Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Professor Accuses Latina College Student of Plagiarism Because of "Hence"

Via Tiffany Martinez
A young woman attending Suffolk University in Boston got a shock when her paper was returned by her professor. Not because she got a bad grade, but the reason why and how. On her blog, she explained:
This morning, my professor handed me back a paper (a literature review) in front of my entire class and exclaimed “this is not your language.” On the top of the page they wrote in blue ink: “Please go back and indicate where you cut and paste.” The period was included. They assumed that the work I turned in was not my own. My professor did not ask me if it was my language, instead they immediately blamed me in front of peers. On the second page the professor circled the word “hence” and wrote in between the typed lines “This is not your word.” The word “not” was underlined. Twice. My professor assumed someone like me would never use language like that. As I stood in the front of the class while a professor challenged my intelligence I could just imagine them reading my paper in their home thinking could someone like her write something like this?
When she says "someone like me," she means that she's Latina.


For background in her post, Tiffany Martínez explained she's a McNair Fellow and student scholar. She's presented at national conferences in San Francisco, San Diego, and Miami. She crafted a critical reflection piece that was published in a peer-reviewed journal managed by the Pell Institute for the Study of Higher Education and Council for Opportunity in Education. She's consistently juggled at least two jobs and maintained the status of a full-time student and Dean’s list recipient since her first year at Suffolk University. She also used this past summer to supervise a teen girls empower program and craft a thirty page intensive research project funded by the federal government.

But to her professor, she couldn't possibly be bright enough to use the word "hence."  It’s patently offensive that a professor would dismiss an entire work as plagiarism simply because she used the word “hence.” While I agree it’s not a common word, it’s not proof of plagiarism. Just an elevated style of writing.

This really bothers me for personal reasons. My African-American mother, who was a valedictorian at her school, a published author, and was a Certified Public Accountant for many years, went to get a loan to start her own accounting business. She wrote up a professional business plan, put it in a binder, and submitted it to the loan officer.

The officer took one look at it, laughed, and said my mother didn’t write it. My mother continued to insist that she did write it, but the officer just kept laughing and threw it back onto the desk. She wouldn’t even look at it. Because of course, an African-American woman could never write a business plan on her own.

Know this sort of thing happens all the time, where people put minorities into boxes and won’t even accept their attempts to rise above them.

Also, as a graduate who earned a bachelor's degree from ASU, I'm offended by the blatant breach of procedure. I took the liberty of checking Suffolk Universities’ ethics policy, where it says: “A faculty member suspecting academic misconduct will contact the student using the Suffolk email address to schedule a meeting and will make all effort to do so within five business days of detecting the incident. During the meeting, the faculty member will present the documentation that led to suspected academic misconduct. If the faculty member reaches the conclusion that academic misconduct has occurred, he or she may impose limited sanctions that are meant to acknowledge the behavior in the context of providing remediation and addressing skill development.” [emphasis mine]

Clearly, her professor did not do this. If he or she suspected cheating, the professor needed to provide proof, specifically the writing that was copied. It’s impossible to prove something in the negative. In this case, the professor is making Tiffany prove that she didn’t cheat, which isn’t possible. What is she supposed to do, submit the entire body of the world’s written work to prove she didn’t copy it?

Sadly, the comments on the author's blog reflect the world at large with comments like:
Another Whiny latino playing the fake race card when she doesnt [sic] agree with the truth!!! You are whats wrong with the world,and also a horrible person! 
Get over it! Nobody uses the word “hence” stop playing the race card you lazy brat
Hope you get kicked out of school for plagiarism. Playing the race card to get out of trouble, what a douche bag you are!
And those are just the three most recent. With an attitude like that, no wonder she's struggling.

I wish Tiffany well in her studies. Her hard work is an inspiration.

[Via Cosmopolitan via Buzzfeed]

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