I've been teaching college since 1999. All told that's 26 semesters (counting quite a few summers). When I review course syllabi with students at the beginning of each term I discuss my plagiarism policies. I tell students that I have yet to teach a semester in which at least one student submits an assignment plagiarized from work done by others. "Maybe this term will be the semester in which no student plagiarizes," I say, hopefully. "Maybe you'll believe me when I say that my plagiarism radar is pretty sensitive," I say, suggestively. "Maybe you won't have to learn that lesson by experience. Maybe you'll take my word for it."
We've just finished week 13 (of 16) and, without really thinking about it consciously, I was starting to wonder whether I might get through this term without wasting my time and energy on a plagiarism case. Sigh. It's not to be. Not one, but two students chose to submit as their own work written by others. I had the unpleasant task of discussing it with them and making the excruciating decisions about what to do with. Do they fail the course outright, or do they fail the assignment and stay in the course? There is a range of possible consequences for plagiarism--mostly because plagiarism has many colors-- many shades and motives. Most of the time, students don't set out to cheat in this way. Mostly they find themselves pressed for time and make poor choices.
I only hope that these are learning experiences for them.