The Trump campaign says that the stakes were too high for something like this to happen, that no one would deliver a plagiarized speech “in front of 35 million people.” But my students often say to me, “this paper’s worth 50% of my grade – I would never have plagiarized.” That makes the plagiarism even more mind-boggling, but it doesn’t make it not plagiarism.
And the kicker: it’s Clinton’s fault. Apparently, this is what happens “when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton”. I’m wary of scapegoating – I see it all the time when I call out plagiarism. “You’re doing this because you don’t like me,” students sometimes say. But I’m not the one who plagiarized. I’m the one whose job it is to assess students’ work, to hold them accountable not just for substance and style, but for ethical behavior.
In this case, we – all of us who care about the future of the United States and who care about truth – are the assessors. It doesn’t matter that Melania Trump or the campaign speechwriter isn’t enrolled in class, trying to get a good grade. Plagiarism is an even more serious offense outside of the classroom, when people are trying to sell themselves and their values – especially their honesty and integrity – to those who would take their lead.