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I should be working, but I just can't get rid of this bothered feeling. One of my students plagiarized on her final exam. Pretty blatantly too. Some of it was from something I had written. I gave her an F on the final, and she ended up with a C in the course. She went in to the final with an A! I don't understand it.

I thought it over, and wanted to follow policies. Spoke to the Dean, the Chair, and my program Chair, and they all pretty much agreed with what I did. But, the Dean said that if a violation affects the student's grade, it must be reported to the Chair and the Dean. I have to notify the student first. Then, a letter will go out to the student's parents, she gets a copy, and one will go in her record. "Good graduation present!", the Dean exclaimed when I told her.

So, I just sent her the letter notifying her of what was to come. It really does make me sad. She could have passed the course with an A. Why she did this, is beyond me.

However, I am convinced that this student has hated me all semester. She would sit there and glare at me with a very sour face. Maybe she wasn't. Maybe that's what her face looks like normally, and I misinterpreted her expressions. There are people like that, I kept telling myself.

I gave an anonymous review of the course, and I keep suspecting her to be the one who said that she pretty much hated me, and would not recommend me to anyone else. The best thing about the course, the reviewer said, was that it was once a week for an hour and a half. She rarely said anything in the class (participation is 10% of the grade). I just kept thinking that she was sitting there plotting my demise the entire time I was either lecturing, or we were discussing something.

After sending the email, I am reminded of the student who threatened to break his professor's legs if the grade is not changed that University Diaries wrote about. That's just very scary.

I hope this doesn't turn into a huge drama or broken legs. I really don't have time to deal with either.

I just wrote this as a comment in another blog, and thought I'd repeat them here:

Here are the main requirements:

- Chocolate (or any GOOD sugary sweets). The chocolate has to be rich and yummy so you feel it's a treat

- Alcohol: You have two options here. Either drink while grading, and grade till you're ready to pass out. Or, use some Champagne or good wine as a reward for after you are done

- Twitter: It's a sanitysaver

- Take a lot of breaks in between papers. I took a half an hour break between two papers. Yes, it was that bad.

- Make an appointment at a hairdresser for when you're finished grading. All that gray that will rear its ugly head while grading needs to be covered up. You might need to get some Rogaine too for the hair pulling.

- Don't forget to breathe!

- Good luck!

Image source: Lavender Hill Studio

It is probably a universal thing about junior faculty to struggle with final grades. This is my sixth course teaching on my own, and everytime I have to give out grades, I really fight with it.

There are some students who I know are A students, and deserve it.

There are those who are stellar A students, but have a bad exam worth a large percentage of their final grade, and barely make a B+.*

There are those who are more towards B than As, but I know they're working hard. So that's a tough call.

There are those who are B students, and are happy with that. That's fine. Those are easy to grade.

C students do the bare minimum to pass the class, which is fine too.

I hate borderline grades because then I have to make the call.

Then there are stupid students who go into the final with A for an average, and then proceed to plagiarize on their take-home final exam. As if that wasn't bad enough, this student actually plagiarized me, her professor! That's truly a first for me. This person followed arguments and statistics that I have published online before, and used exact sentences and paragraphs and did not bother citing anything. Additionally, she copied grammatical errors from an Amnesty International site that was Google translated from Czech into English.

My mind cannot fully comprehend that one. I don't know what must have been running through her head. Probably something along the lines of "hell with this. I'm graduating, I don't care". She ended up with a C in the course, because I failed her on an exam that was worth 12% of her final grade. If she would not have been graduating, I would have brought disciplinary actions against her.

I'm not sure I'll ever understand this one. But, it will make a good story down the line.

I survived my first semester in this private. The average for the course, B, was the lowest I had ever gotten in any of the courses I taught. I don't know if that's because I was getting harder, or the quality of the work was mediocre.

Then again, I have to keep reminding myself that C is average. Many (most?) people are happy to be average, so I have to accept that, and move on.

All in all, I find grading truly annoying, and anguishing at times.


* This semester, I the best student, and best writer in any of my classes. This person's work was so polished, and so well argued, that by the end, she just made the whole class worth teaching. She got what I was talking about, and synthesized it very well. But, she failed her mid-term because of some personal issues, and while she would have normally gotten at least a 98-99% (yes, she's that good), she ended up with 88%. This makes me very sad. But, it would be very unfair to the rest of the students if I gave her an A. I hate making these calls

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