The full title of this session was “Pedagogic Violence and Emotions of (Self-) Assessment: Anger, Mortification, Shame,” or, as panel chair Elizabeth Weiser summed it up, “The Happy Panel!”
Amy Robillard began her presentation, “The Functions and Effects of Angry Responses to Plagiarism,” with some questions to the audience: “How many of us have suspected plagiarism?” All hands went up. “Felt insulted by it?” All hands. “Felt angry?” Again: all. Robillard offered an anecdote from a course she had taught wherein a student turned in a paper with one passage in a noticeably lighter font than the rest of the passage. She Googled the passage and discovered that the student had actually plagiarized three separate passages in the paper from weblogs. Robillard described her anger at the attempt at deceit, and her anger at the student’s implicit presumption of stupidity on Robillard’s part; the presumption that Robillard would somehow be dumb enough not to recognize plagiarism when she saw it. This anger, Robillard suggested, helped her to maintain an identity as a writing instructor sufficiently expert to make the distinction between that which is plagiarized and that which is not. But of course, she acknowledged, she could have missed it as well, because it was the font color that spurred her curiosity — and that acknowledgment led for Robillard both to a possible anger at self for writing teacher and to the question (itself carrying an inherent affective teacherly freight) of how many plagiarizers go uncaught.