Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ouch!

Rebel Girl was pleased to discover that Reuben Martinez, bookseller and community activist extraordinaire, promoter of literacy and recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, was on campus on Wednesday, addressing students visiting from a local continuation school. Rebel Girl couldn't make his talk (she was teaching at the time), but she hustled over in between classes to greet him and check the scene out.

And what a scene it was, enough to warm her oft-chilly end-of-the-semester-heart. Nice. The counselors were doing what they do best, making the teens feel at home, encouraging them about possibilities, the future, how higher education was for them. Nice. Frank Marmolejo was working the tables of students who were busily eating slices courtesy of Papa John's pizza. Nice. Reuben was holding court talking about hanging with Carlos Fuentes and Gloria Estefan. His table of students was transfixed. Nice. All in the deep shadow of the new performing arts complex (PAC).

A counselor approached Rebel Girl and gushed about Reuben. Wouldn't he be a great commencement speaker? she asked. Funny you mention that, Rebel Girl replied

Rebel Girl remembered the sad story about last year's commencement speaker committee. Reb was on the committee and showed up with proposal for three candidates, including write-ups. Reuben was the top of her list for all the obvious reasons. Suffice to say he was, apparently, not nearly as impressive as many others. She remembers someone pointing out his age: ouch! And another comment had to do with the fact that he had not gone to college himself: ouch! (At least no one mentioned that he was Mexican-American (ouch!) though Reb was waiting for that one, but maybe it's not said aloud anymore. Still, Rebel Girl can't think of a single Latino who has ever had the opportunity to address the graduating class as the commencement speaker, not in 15 years. But maybe she is a just a bit too sensitive on this point. And women? Don't get her started. You know what she's like. What a bean counter. Ouch! Holy Frijoles!)

Despite these "concerns," Reuben's name was forwarded to the college president as, if she remembers correctly, the last on the list. Needless to say Reuben wasn't chosen. Some of you may recall who spoke to us last year. Rebel Girl will allow you to wallow in your own memories of that event. Some of you may even want to go back further than last year and recall all our recent stellar speakers...

Before she left, Rebel Girl stopped by Reuben once again and asked if he ever did the commencement speech thing. "Oh sure," he replied, "I'm already getting booked for next year. Cal State Long Beach and then Columbia. At Columbia," he went on, "I'll give the commencement speech for the Department of Education."

Ouch.

In the hours that followed, Rebel Girl worked with a record 45 students in the Humanities Center. It's the UC application season plus the end-of-the-semester crush. Ouch! It's nice to be wanted but sometimes students get impatient. One young student was particularly so, complaining about the wait. Rebel Girl apologized, then began to review the work at hand.

Without going into too much detail, it quickly became obvious that the student had submitted a plagiarized work. Then it became obvious that the plagiarized work was not even the student's own work – that the student was in the center submitting the plagiarized work on behalf of a friend, another student. Then it became obvious that the student had used another student's enrollment in the center and falsified records in order to receive the attentions of an instructor like Rebel Girl on the plagiarized essay.

Ouch.

Rebel Girl declined to work further with the "student" who didn't really seem to care at all. When last seen, the student was busily punching away at some electronic device.

Rebel Girl continues to stew over what her next step, if any, should be.

28 comments:

  1. Are you saying that our commencement speakers leave something to be desired?

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  2. Don't stew.

    Students plagiarize.

    There is little we can do. Get with the program.

    Most of my colleagues could care less. Plagiarized papers make for easy reading. The one students write themsleves - shudder, shudder.

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  3. Can't you do anything about the various students - three so far - involved in the fraud?

    I mean, you ARE in the writing lab as an instructor - therefore the school's policies regarding plagiarism apply, right? Certainly the school's policies regarding enrollment do...

    Maybe you can bring it to the attention of the instructor who is going to receive the plagiarized paper.

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  4. Yes, yesterday's event with Martinez was wonderful.

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  5. IVC had Tustin Mayor Pro-Tem Lou Bone as commencement speaker a few years ago.

    Bone was really dynamic and inspring.

    Plus he had a funny name.

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  6. You ARE too sensitive.

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  7. Clearly, the plagiarizin' faux student should be number one candidate for commencement speaker. Oh, and for the person who diagnosis Reb as too sensitive, I assume they don't even attend the lousy commencement exercises, consistent with their own sensitivities. Most of those dreadful speeches are plagiarized, cliche-ridden, chock full of aphorisms, which seems to suit administration just fine. Martinez might actually say something, which would not be fine, no.

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  8. Are you suggesting that they are plagiarists and poor writers in our own midst?

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  9. We had the taco guy once. He wore a nice shirt and talked about what a flaky student he was.

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  10. Wow. 45 students in the course of a few hours is astonishing. Are you sure you couldn't hire Christmas help, à la Macy's?

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  11. 8:45...if you are an instructor, then you should consider choosing another field. There are many ways to get students to avoid the lazy temptation to plagiarize. What's worse than a lazy student is a lazy instructor. So take your own advice and get with the program!

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  12. 8:45, you ARE the reason students don't care. Ashamed much?

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  13. Plagiarism is becoming astonishingly more pervasive. The Internet has opened up a plethora of readily available sources from which to steal. It is remarkable that Reb was able to detect plagiarism so readily. Really, the big time-sink for instructors is documenting where the student got the material from, in order to make a charge stick. A student has to be even stupider than required to plagiarize in order to seize on the first Google hit or Wikipedia entry. Although an instructor can intuit that the student's paper demonstrates a level of fluency not matched by the student's in-class work, searching the entire English corpus to confirm that hunch may not be the best use of an instructor's time -- and yet it is a juridical responsibility.

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  14. It is incredible to read about such concern over commencement speakers and to see that Race even enters into this amazingly insignificant topic. And to read that some not only condone plagiarism, but also actually embrace it - clear evidence that open enrollment public education is a waste of time and money.

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  15. There are many ways to construct writing assignments so that students can't plagiarize or will find it impossible or discouraging to do so. Peer editing is one way. If more instructors taught writing (outside of writing and English courses) then that also would reduce the instances of plagiarism. But many instructors' idea of grading is feeding a machine. There are also web-based solutions such as turnitin.com. The problem of plagiarism is only as big as we, as instructors, let it be.

    And 5:05, your brief comment is filled with so many non sequiturs whose only purpose I can see is to dismiss public education.

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  16. "... only purpose I can see is to dismiss public education."

    BINGO! You get an A, Grasshopper.

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  17. 9:26...I think you misread.

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  18. Come on, Reb, clearly your college only invites the likes of Martinez and you to speak to continuation students. Don't you see?

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  19. Where did these nasty little shits come from?

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  20. You've never had a female commencement speaker?

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  21. Pretty tough charges, Reb - administrators who prefer petty entrepreneurs and local party hacks over scholarly voices and then, your claim about plagiarizing students - can you back all this stuff up with hard evidence?

    Seems unlikely to me.

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  22. Our commencement speakers are consistently embarrassing. Part of the problem is that our staff has low expectations and are easily impressed. Furthermore, our board members who speak at commencement are downright awful. Last year David Lang quoted from "Chicken Soup for the Soul." I mean, come on...this is a college, for crying out loud!

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  23. We have had female commencement speakers, though not often. I do believe that Maxine H. Kingston spoke for us maybe 15 years ago.

    We tend to be distracted in the SOCCCD by our inept and corrupt Chancellor and trustees--that's one reason that we've allowed things to slide for commencement. It's a natural or at least predictable reaction.

    Like it or not, many students care a great deal about commencement and so it is important that we present ourselves well. We do not present ourselves well when we allow commencement speakers that reflect popular culture more than academia or at least thoughtfulness.

    Martinez will be doing a Commencement address at Columbia. We can have him too, if we ask.

    But we'll likely end up with the Fish Taco guy (we like him, but...) or one of Fuentes or Mathur's cronies. Or even worse.

    College is the one time in life when a person is exposed to a wider world and to thinking that pushes the margins a bit. Fish Tacos and Tustin mayors are about another, less noble, less interesting, kind of thinking.

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  24. Ah yes, Kingston was here back in the day when we had a system that acknowleged that commencement was something special.

    How about the FACULTY speaker a few years back who began HIS speech by telling the students and their families that he generally did not attend commencement - that ususally he went fishing instead - but since he was nominated as faculty speaker, well, darn, he thought he show up this time. Now THAT was a class act. Nothing quite like insulting your audience.

    Can anyone tell me the chap's name?

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  25. uh, that would be Gary Rybold, right?

    The speech teacher?

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  26. 8:45's comments have me fuming! Writing instructors know how to construct an assignment to avoid plagiarism--and they've helped me do likewise with my assignments. Of course there is something "we can do"--clearly, 8:45 is too lazy to take those steps.

    A student allowed to cheat (by pretending he's someone he's not, by claiming to be enrolled in a course he's not, and by submitting work he's cobbled together from a variety of "free" internet sources) becomes an adult who lies to customers and regulatory agencies, and who believes himself are above the law (or in this case, the district/college policies on plagiarism).

    Some districts need look no further than their own administrators who similarly plagiarized their own pseudo-dissertations. 8:45, maybe it's time for you to retire and leave the honest work to honest faculty.

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