Friday, April 06, 2007

"I thought he was weird and odd."

Scale of Justice
Intellectual Property Law
(Image from Wikipedia)

Some readers may recall my post of March 19, 2007, in which I noted that the Granite Tower -- the Korea University glossy-covered magazine written by students -- had recognized my 'expertise' as a scholar.

Expertise in catching plagiarists, a usually thankless job.

It truly is a nasty job, but someone really does have to do it, and I've now actually received attention for my efforts, as the most recent issue of the Granite Tower (April 2007) has just appeared on campus and includes an interview with me (page 21) as part of a larger article (pages 16-21) titled "You Do You Die" -- a rather threatening title, for you shall not truly die from plagiarizing, though your eyes will definitely be opened when you get caught . . . if you get caught by me.

The article begins by prefacing a quote from my interview:
"Plagiarism is stealing. It's intellectual theft. Aside from the criminal aspect, plagiarism is dishonest and thus unethical."
These words appeared in quotation marks but, ironically, were not attributed to me. Only if you read the entire article do you find out who uttered the words.

Reading, however, will prove inconvenient for anyone who doesn't stroll across the KU campus this week, for oddly -- since the magazine is free on campus -- the Granite Tower's online version appears to be blocked!

I'm disappointed. My opportunity for fame and glory rushing toward me with no forelock to seize! Well, as the Romans used to say, "Carpe Diem!", which -- if my Latin doesn't fail me -- means something like "Complain to God!"

Aside from my interview with its pithy remarks, the article includes some interesting observations by other individuals. An interview with an anonymous student on page 20 caught my attention, for this student acknowledged plagiarizing and getting caught. The interviewer asked:
What was the course?
The student replied:
Western Civilization 2.
That course might sound familiar to regular readers of my blog, for I often referred to it over my years of teaching at Korea University. It's my course.

The interviewer then asked:
What have you learned from the experience?
To this query, the student had some fascinating things to say -- fascinating for me, anyway:
For starters, I pay much more attention on whether or not I'm plagiarizing when I take reference when I'm writing reports. I'm sure that if I hadn't taken the course and hadn't met that professor, I would have gotten into a bigger mess later on in my life. I take the experience that I had as a freshman and think of it as a blessing.

At first, I really did hate him. I thought he was weird and odd. But now that I think about it, that professor was doing what was only right. College is a place that requires official documentation of a person's ideas and research. It is also a place that teaches academic attainments that can sometimes be abstract. It's a shame that the techniques to express the abstract knowledge are not offered at such a place.
Later in the interview, the student added:
Honestly, I don't think that other professors take the time to look over reports that we hand in compared to the professor who gave me the F.
I'm touched. Honestly. A student actually learned something from me. I wonder if that student ever took another course under my tutelage.

The interviewer also asked this same student a very important question:
Did you get any instructions from the school or other professors about plagiarism?
The student replied:
No, I never did get any heads-up about anything concerning plagiarism. Well, even if I did get instructions about it, it was probably a very vague outline. I feel that there is a great lack of the general idea and education about this issue. We students don't receive any guidelines when we first enter college. This is a serious problem.
I echo this student's lament that more attention is not given to the problem. Why isn't more done at Korea University to alert students and professors to the problem of plagiarism? Here's why:
When asked if the school had any plans to make regulations or guidelines on plagiarism, the staffer, Jun Young Min[, of KU's Records and Registration Team,] replied, "No, the school does not have any plans to do so whatsoever. You see, the mere act of making such regulations and guidelines would be the same as to admitting that students at our school are in fact plagiarizing. Therefore, this would be a disgrace to KU."
Well, that's certainly honest. It's so bluntly honest, in fact, that I must assume Jun Young Min to be wryly making a critical observation. Taken broadly, it aptly expresses a problem pervasive here in Korea, namely, an excessive concern with superficial appearances over deeper substance.

Or what my wife might call "Flashy fluff."

UPDATE: The link above to the article now appears to be working.



At 8:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's certainly a hard concept to teach when you're the only one doing it. I have also found difficulty getting students not to completely plagarize; heck, it's hard to get them not to try to pass off something that's been run through an internet translator as authentic, I-did-it-myself English.

Any more comments on your methodology for scaring the crap out of the students and take it seriously?

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

ROTFLOL! It's hard not to like that Jun Young Min!

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Kim, I have my students write a first draft, and I critique that one very severely. I also give a lot of advice and help so that they can improve on their final draft (and I grade on improvement).

Unless they plagiarize. In that case, I refuse to correct it, though I do give some advice.

I also give them plenty of warning in advance and explain what plagiarism is, so they have no excuse.

After an "F" on an important assignment, they do get serious. That's what I've found to work.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:17 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

CIV, I just hope that Jun Young Min was offering the remark as criticism, for the context of the remark didn't make this entirely clear.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:21 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

The article in the Granite Tower is available on line at

Thanks for this. I had my freshmen writing movie reviews last week and made them all rewrite their plot summaries when it was very obvious that they were taken directly from the internet. They didn't seem to have a clue that it isn't OK to take others' work and call it your own. I was mad until I remembered that this is where they are supposed to learn it.

At 5:56 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Joe in Korea.

Oddly, when I tried my blog link to the Granite Tower article while I was at Kyung Hee, the link worked. I'll have to check if it's working now from my home. If not, I'll add your link.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:43 AM, Blogger Dave said...

I have found that many non-academics routinely assume that almost anything substantial is plagiarized.

On the flipside, they get annoyed if I explicitly cite a source. I consider a citation both a courtesy to the source and an invitation to go read it for yourself, and they act like it's pretentious.

At 6:59 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Dave, I've never encountered that attitude, so I've either been very lucky or nobody much reads my blog.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:47 PM, Blogger Dave said...

I meant in other places besides blogs. I think everyone considers blogs to be pure opinion.

At 3:49 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

A lot of blogs are pure opinion, and some are entertaining for that reason, but I've seen some blogs that provide a lot of documentation, even footnotes -- such as at the Joy of Curmudgeonry, which you probably know about (and which can be found on my blogroll).

As for those who are annoyed by citations, I don't understand their reaction, so I have no insights to offer.

Jeffery Hodges

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