In the paper “Anorexia The Cheating Disorder,” Richard Murphy argues that less known yet more troublesome aspect of plagiarism is the undermining effect that it has on the relationship between a professor and his students. This rapport that initially was considered one of trust and teamwork, becomes one of hunter/prey, where he and the students become opponents, no longer working towards a common goal. Murphy reveals his emotional struggle when faced with a suspicion, due to the difficulty involved in assessing its accuracy.
Murphy discusses two personal experiences that took place several years apart to demonstrate the long-lasting, irreversible effects of plagiarism, “its perversity” (898). In the first example (the one that took place earlier in time) Murphy is able to locate the book that the student had used to plagiarize his work. When confronted on two different occasions, the student firmly and very convincingly lied about having copied. In the second example, an innocent student, under the pressure of Murphy’s query, confesses to being guilty.
When we look closely at Murphy’s anecdotes, we see how challenging it is for a professor to know what the right course of action is when faced with a possible case of plagiarism. According to the author, it is not part of a professor’s training to learn how to handle it and as a result they are not prepared for it. Murphy works to convince us that professors are unfitted to manage plagiarism by showing us how when he has a suspicion, his emotions overtake his rationale and he becomes unable to individualized each case.
He presents plagiarism as this “obsessive and bilious” (901) shadow-like experience, that once it appears, it possesses him and glooms his thoughts and actions rendering him unable to be fair. Once his imaginary alarm goes off, he ceases to see students as individuals, they become for him a sort of enemy to be trapped and sentenced as part of an entangled mystery-solving complot. He describes in great detail the manic-investigative process he engrosses himself in to prove how unqualified he is to deal with such issues, and how he does not possess the emotional or material sources to properly oversee them. 900) Most importantly he argues that even when he has no evidence of a student’s misconduct, the memory of previous experiences can fuel his charge against an innocent student, without giving her/him the deserved benefit of the doubt. (901) Upon closer examination Murphy’s claim becomes unconvincing because it does not require any highly specialized training to be able to be impartial and to treat each case in isolation. Since students personalities are very different, each case needs to be approached independently.
His failure to do so is a personal matter that applies to him individually and cannot be generalized to all professors. Murphy assumes that he is representative of all professors. If we were to accept his claim we would be committing the same error that he is committing, namely, taking an isolated case and universalizing it. His examples show how he jumps into conclusions based on his uncontrollable emotional drive, which ultimately proves how uniquely unfit he is to manage the subject matter.
Murphy, Richard. “Anorexia: The Cheating Disorder.” College English 52.8 (1990) : 898-903. Print