March 06, 2007
Every quarter, I'll be reading someone's writing and I'll see a pattern change. Maybe it's tense or syntax. Maybe it's diction. In Tracy's case, she let a British spelling slip through.
Off to Google!
Long before that moment, Tracy drove me nuts. She was pretty, 23, high-energy, bright, ambitious, and impatient with anyone slow to recognize these qualities. I took to calling her "Tracy Flick" behind her back because of her resemblance to the Reese Witherspoon character in "Election." She tried mightily to run my class, and in that she dominated it, she succeeded. She managed me. She managed her classmates. We were all in Tracy's orbit. Her insatiable greed for acknowledgement and success scared me in that "I'm going to be working for this chick within five years" sort of way.
Well, Google betrayed her. She had plagiarized her writing assignment from a British web site. It was a foolish, arrogant mistake. Foolish because she could have written it in her sleep, arrogant because she thought she wouldn't get caught.
"What part of 'Write 10 descriptions' implied to you that you didn't need to write it yourself?" I emailed her, pointing her to both 1) the class plagiarism policy and 2) the web site from which she'd stolen. I sent the mail on a Friday night so she'd have to worry about it until class on Tuesday.
When she showed up on Tuesday, she was wearing a bustier and blazer that showcased her personal silicon quarry. When that didn't work, she proceeded to lecture me about what my options were. "Don't tell me you 'have to.' Per departmental policy, it's entirely the instructor's discretion," she said, citing the policy letter and verse. She went on to explain the range of options I had, including doing nothing, and that I should do exactly nothing because the plagiarism was really my fault because my assignment was unclear.
Disrespectfully disagreeing, I failed her and recommended her for expulsion. The university wheels didn't turn fast enough, and she graduated a while later.
I've kept a wary eye on Tracy from afar. She went from coffee barista to marketing intern to marketer to marketing manager in under two years. The Seattle paper has mentioned her as a hot, up-and-coming executive in the advertising industry. She was on a cable reality show. She appears regularly on local TV to give "ambush makeover" advice. She is 25.
The good news is, when you factor in my lost income and expenses, I paid only $11,000 for the pleasure of teaching that class. Now pardon me while I chuck my drink at the TV.
posted by john at 08:27 AM • solamente