Well, for starters, I do. I’m a pretty laid-back person and it takes some work for a person to make me mad. One way to make me mad with very little effort is to plagiarize in my class. Unless you’re my student, though, telling you that I’ll be personally insulted if you choose to plagiarize isn’t much of a deterrent.
So forget about me and my lectures about how cheating actually cheats the cheater out of an opportunity to learn (Judging from the amount of plagiarism I caught this semester, that message doesn’t make much of an impact anyway). Let’s instead look at what the possible consequences are, both personally and professionally, for plagiarism.
Remember being asked to make those “top 10 things I look for in a mate/friend” lists? If you’ve never made one, do so now. I’ll even give you a second to do it. If you’ve done it before, now’s a good time to do it again just to see how your expectations have changed over time. (A variation to this exercise is making a list of the top ten personality traits you wish to be known for/want to develop.)
Done? Good. Now check that list and see if and where “honesty” lands on your list. If it doesn’t make an appearance anywhere on your list, you need to think seriously about how satisfying your current relationships are.
Every self-help book you read or psychotherapist you see will tell you the same thing: healthy relationships are based on trust. When trust is violated, the relationship is in trouble. When the breach in trust is severe enough, spouses divorce, friends become enemies, and employees are fired.
If you’re finding it difficult to wrap your mind around what personal integrity is and how important it is to you, I don’t blame you. Integrity isn’t as overtly emphasized in this day and age as it was decades ago. For example, the phrase “a man of his word” sounds antiquated today. But just because a person’s character isn’t explicitly spoken about in everyday conversation doesn’t mean that it is less important today. A good way to gauge just how important it is to you is to imagine how you would feel if someone called you a liar.
Don’t imagine how you would react. Behavior isn’t always a good indication of feelings. For example, if someone I didn’t know very well accused me of lying, I could see myself shrugging and saying “I’m sorry you feel that way.” You can bet your <insert something witty> that it would bother me, though.
I really, really hope it would bother you too.
To tie this discussion back to plagiarism, every time write your name on and turn in a report that isn’t your own, you’re letting anyone who finds out about it know that you are a liar. It’s easy to see how getting caught by your boss or professor affects you, but most people forget about the effect their plagiarism has on others who aren’t in a position of authority over them. Friends and colleagues will respect you less; I’ve had enough conversations with others about this topic to know that this is true. Sure, peers can’t touch your paycheck, but what they can “touch” is just as important. How long will your self-esteem survive a work environment where everyone looks at you askance? You can move, of course, and get a fresh start (assuming your reputation doesn’t follow you to your new place of employment)…but how many times can you afford to “start fresh”?
For those of you who are still in school, the stakes for plagiarism are still just as high. Students who are caught plagiarizing multiple times get a note placed on their permanent records, which means you CANNOT “start fresh”; every professor will view you with suspicion the moment s/he sees your transcript. You’re not off the hook, either, if you plagiarize but don’t have it noted on your permanent record. Professors talk to each other and word WILL get around, especially if you’re applying for an exclusive program and the program director needs to speak with your previous instructors to see if you’d make a good fit. Even if you manage to avoid the spotlight, you will probably need letters of recommendation if you plan on pursuing a graduate degree or applying to an exclusive program (E.g., nursing school) or for a scholarship. If you plagiarized and were caught, don’t even think about asking the professor who caught you for a letter of recommendation. You’ll get a letter, all right, but it won’t be one that recommends you.
See the detrimental effects plagiarism can have on your personal life? If that’s not enough to make you think twice about plagiarizing, the next blog post will be about the professional repercussions plagiarism has. And let me tell you, they’re not pretty.
Photo credit: Binder of DOOM! by Hello Lovely
The photo for today’s post is a reference to the CHE Forum’s Big Black Binders of Doom!