The Blatant Plagiarism Conundrum: If You Make It Obvious That You Lifted Someone Else’s Work, Is That More Ethical Than Covering Your Tracks?

plagiarized essay

This episode reminds me of the Jerry Seinfeld riff–I’ve mentioned it before—on how hairpieces inherently insult the intelligence of the people the bald imposter is trying to fool, and thus the toup’-wearer should just leave the price tag on, danging in front of his face.

A student apparently submitted an essay regarding her experiences as a black woman, not bothering about the fact that she is white.

Here is the incriminating passage, unblurred:



I’m fascinated by the implications of this. Could the white student plausibly claim she was writing the essay in the voice of a black woman? Could she take the Jumbo route, and express shock that she is white, and argue that nobody ever told her that before? (Fans of “The Jerk,” raise your hands!) That might be a terrific Jumbo: “I’m white??? Oh, my God!!!” If it was plagiarism, does she deserve Seinfeld ethics points for not trying to hide it? Or perhaps she was attempting to prove that her teacher didn’t read essays, and setting a trap, risking her own academic reputation to expose a fraudulent teacher!

Then again, she might just be an idiot.

I’d bet on the latter.


Pointer: Above the Law

Facts: Legal Check

Graphics: Legal Check


21 thoughts on “The Blatant Plagiarism Conundrum: If You Make It Obvious That You Lifted Someone Else’s Work, Is That More Ethical Than Covering Your Tracks?

  1. (raising my hand – a fan of “The Jerk”)
    I was born a poor child (skin color forever debatable, due to jaundice)…
    In terms of genetics, everyone is a plagiarist.
    Obviously, from previous discussions, I have the “leash gene.”

    • True – she may personally identify herself as black woman deliberately to separate herself from her white privilege in order to fully sympathize with the oppressed, repressed, depressed, and teapressed.

  2. What if she was adopted by a black family and grew up mostly around black people? Isn’t reasonable that she would think of herself as black?

        • One would hope, island4diver, that she would think of herself as a human being. Presuming, of course, your hypothetical adoptive black family taught her beyond racial politics.

          Didn’t usedta be this way, but at least nowadays in the good ol’ USA, if you think of yourself as a person – and treat other people like they think of themselves that way – people generally get along just fine. Hint: a strong sensitivity for bullshit and an even stronger sense of humor are useful tools in such a situation.

          Most people commenting here don’t bother looking for highly-strained hypotheticals to make a point. Hyperbole is fair game, and it’s been a long day. May I presume that your tongue was similarly in cheek?

          • Yes and no. I can picture a student feeding the prof that BS to try to beat the rap, and I actually knew someone like that.

  3. After 35 years of teaching, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two kinds of plagiarists: dishonest and really lazy, and lazy and really dishonest. This is the former.

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