Cheaters never prosper

Disclaimer: This incident is a combination of three or four cheating instances that I’ve dealt with in the past 7 years as a professor. There may well have been more that I didn’t catch – but ignorance is bliss!

Dear code-plagiarizing student,

I know you feel bad – you may even feel bad for what you did rather than for the fact that you got caught – I am willing to give you the benefit of doubt. I am sure also that by taking the blame for “recycling” code and absolving your project partner you feel you are acting in a noble fashion.

I’m calling BULL SHIT on that. You made a bone headed choice to “borrow” another team’s code – and you got caught. The problem with choices are – that we have to live with them. And when they affect us it’s bad enough but most choices aren’t selective about what or whom they affect. So your partner, who may be completely blameless in all this, also gets tarred by the same brush. Think about that – your stupidity ruined someone else’s GPA. Your best course of action is to be upfront and honest with your professor – own up to it – it’s called an honor code violation for an effing reason!

Also, for next time, you may want to check for the following:

1. Does my code have another person’s name on the top?

2. Are there misspelled comments with the same spelling mistakes?

3. Do variables have the same names and are they used to hold values for the same, albeit wrong, numbers?

4. If a certain hardware pin has been designated an input, don’t try to read the input from another pin and expect me to believe your code worked

Of course, I realize that I have now provided you with essentially a how-to guide on cheating – but, if you choose to take all these precautions when plagiarizing code, you’re going to realize that you would have been better off just writing the darn thing yourself to begin with! Instant karma!

Honor code violations also come with certain consequences like removal from the program and failing the class. However, you are young and young people make mistakes. You will learn from this one and hopefully it will make you a more respectful, ethical engineer. So, you will receive a 0 on this assignment – which will knock you a letter grade down. Your partner too will receive a 0 since this was a team project. That’s on you – but it will also teach him a valuable lesson – when your name goes on a report you need to be very sure what’s in that report because it’s your responsibility too.

The thing to understand about your professor is that you had my implicit faith and trust – until you messed it up with one asinine move like this. As is so often the case, earning lost trust is an uphill battle and, no matter how much I try to be objective, I’m going to be wary of trusting you again. And that’s unfortunate, for you and for me.

These are tough lessons to learn, and now maybe you have. And maybe you won’t do this again. But maybe, at the end of a semester, when you’ve pulled consecutive all-nighters to study and drank enough coffee to keep a small army awake – you’ll be incredibly tempted again. But, to quote Master Po – choose wisely young grasshopper.

I remain, as ever
Your Professor

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