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Davis, California

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Column: Criminal mindless

First, some responses to questions by my devoted readers. No, I haven’t spoken with a New York City accent since sixth grade. Yes, “Hey Arnold!” is an accurate representation of my childhood, or at least the part about going to a public school known solely by a three-digit number. Yes, they’re real, and they’re spectacular! Now back to the show.

My favorite thing to read in The Aggie — besides my own column, which I read aloud to myself every night while gazing into a mirror — are the Campus Judicial Affairs reports. They’re fascinating! Part of it might be the same pleasure one gets from watching any of the dozens of crime procedural dramas on TV. The other is marveling at the lengths some people will go to to cheat. The audacity! The unoriginality! The utter stupidity!

Let’s get one thing straight: There is no way you can cheat that the teachers and TAs of this campus haven’t seen before or been trained to deal with. You name it, it’s been done. Countermeasures have been deployed. We know all your tricks. We know all your secrets. All your grades belong to us. You have no chance to pass this exam, take your time. Ha Ha Ha.

Most importantly, we know what the internet is. Wikipedia isn’t some secret website that only people below the drinking age are aware of. If you copy your essay text from an online resource, or even a previous year’s paper, rest assured that we will notice. How? Simple. Two types of students engage in plagiarism: Those too dumb to write a good essay on their own, and those unfamiliar with what does and does not constitute “plagiarism,” with the latter group often including foreign students from nations where copying and memorization is prized over independent thought and intellectual property rights. Both groups also tend to have bad grammar, weak writing styles and/or poor command of the English language, all of which will be reflected in the general shittiness of their essay … except the one paragraph that is unusually well-written and not made of Fail. Dead giveaway. Don’t try copying an entire essay, either. Learning and making improvement is possible; gaining fluency in a language you could barely speak a week ago is not.

While not all plagiarism is intentional, guilt in cases of exam cheating is less ambiguous. Copying someone else’s answers, getting someone to take your exam for you or using an illegal answer key is universally wrong. A countermeasure for this is having two versions of an exam during the same day and writing new exams each year. Making exams takes time and is a huge pain, which is why those students privileged enough to have access to test banks are dicks. I’m talking to you, frat boys. Bros. Broskis? Bronies? That sounds right. We know you have copies of our past exams, Brohans, because it’s the only explanation for you actually graduating with degrees in anything other than political science. I’m not saying you won’t get away with using them, but it’s definitely not cool, Brolaf. Broseph. Broammar Broddafi. Where was I?

Along with public speaking and doing your own laundry, essay crafting is one of the three skills you should not graduate college without having mastered. Alas, most students enter college woefully unprepared. I may be a stickler for grammar (every time the editors delete my serial commas as per AP Stylebook rules, I die a little inside), but I’m not complaining. Bad essays are bad, but the horrible ones are entertainment gold! Like surgeons who joke about dying patients to relieve stress, teachers joke about dim pupils. My advisor collects the worst sentences from student papers in a file that grows every year. It’s great fun to read, though there’s always the Damoclean fear that my words may end up there, too.

Aw, who am I kidding? If my grammar was bad, I wouldn’t be an Aggie columnist, right? Right, Brody? Broseidon? Brosophila brolanogaster? I’ll stop now.

MATAN SHELOMI has never actually seen “Hey Arnold!” but can be reached at mshelomi@ucdavis.edu.


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