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Talk About Balls…

June 6th, 2004

A student in England is suing his university… because they did not catch him at plagiarism early enough.

No, I’m not making that up. Apparently, he did it quite often, and was never caught. But Kent University started using new software to catch plagiarists, and finally detected it. “I hold my hands up,” the student, Michael Gunn, said. “I did plagiarise. I never dreamt it was a problem.”

But, he adds, they never caught him before now. He paid tuition all that time–and they never nabbed him until just before the end of his studies. “If they had pulled me up with my first essay at the beginning and warned me of the problems and consequences, it would be fair enough. But all my essays were handed back with good marks and no one spotted it.”

As a university professor, I have to give this student an “A+” for brazen gall, and an “F” for honesty and taking responsibility. What does this young man think will happen for the rest of his life? “Yes, I embezzled millions of pounds from the company for many years,” I imagine him telling the police decades on. “But they never caught me until just before my retirement, so I’m suing them. Someone should have warned me that embezzling was illegal.”

This rates right up there with Steve Martin’s classic “I forgot” defense.

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  1. kei & yuri
    June 6th, 2004 at 10:49 | #1

    Every class we’ve had going back through secondary school-we’re currently in college-started with a brief lecture and a paper spelling out some plagiarism policy (usually zero tolerance). This was never discussed? Not credible, not possible-not paying attention in class is no more an excuse.

    Montaigne felt that falsehood should be a capital offense, because once the lie gets out it’s like a virus (we’re getting that from Gore Vida’s excellent new book, Imperial America).

  2. Luis
    June 6th, 2004 at 12:28 | #2

    Yes, and the university says pretty much the same thing–plagiarism guidelines are set out in universally-issued handbooks and in study skills courses. and though they do not mention it, I’d bet that his writing instructors in the college and in previous schools pointed it out, too, but did not document it in a way a court would accept. Just another stupid kid trying to work the system.

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