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Sometimes I feel like plagiarism is some sort of irresolvable residue, built into the system of writing programs like a haunting remainder. As Director of Writing Programs at my school, every case of suspected plagiarism in the English department’s writing classes comes to me. We have a zero-tolerance policy in our program: any bit of plagiarism on any assignment at any time and we pursue charges of academic irregularity. I stand behind that policy, mostly because in my experience as a teacher cutting any sort of “deal” with a student who has intentionally or unintentionally plagiarized always comes back to haunt me. And yet. This semester one of my strongest students—an international student—turned in work with sentences from sources woven into his text but not cited or acknowledged.  I should have pursued charges but used it as a teaching moment instead. Since this particular class is focused on researched writing, it gave us as a class a chance to discuss citation, paraphrase, and plagiarism; for that student, it was a second chance. Still, I’m not sure how I feel about the disjuncture between my actions as an administrator and my actions as a teacher. How do you handle plagiarism?
About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.