All of us Princeton students are familiar with the infamous “honor code”, but fortunately, most of us don’t experience an overwhelming feeling of nausea each time we hear the word “plagiarism.” On move-in day two weeks ago, as I heaved my suitcase into my room, I saw a poster on the wall just outside of our room that read “Join the Princeton Honor Committee!” My hands began to tremble. I dropped my suitcase—and I if I’d looked down at my chest I would have seen my shirt fluttering along with the practically audible hammering of my heart.
It happened on an innocent Sunday night last spring, the second semester of my freshman year. The night was entirely ordinary, until I received an email from my Writing Sem professor. Subject: “Committee on Discipline Hearing.” Committee on Discipline? What even is that?
First line: “Dear Clara, I regret to inform you that I have some troubling news.” Excusez-moi?
Rest of email: “After thoroughly reviewing your second revision and comparing it to essays submitted for this class in prior years, in addition to having the essay checked by our plagiarism committee, I have noticed certain suspicious affinities. It appears that much of your content was either directly copied or only slightly changed from other academic works…Because academic integrity is at the heart of Princeton’s values, I am deeply troubled by your decision to disregard the norms governing references and attribution.
Accordingly, you are to appear before the Committee on Discipline on Thursday, April 5 at 6 pm… At the time of the hearing, you will be given the opportunity to defend your work in light of these accusations…I sincerely hope that you are exonerated at this hearing.”
Lucky for my mental health, and as you can guess by the fact that I wasn’t expelled, this story has a happy ending. If I hadn’t been so busy repeating the phrase “I can’t get suspended, I am not leaving” over and over again in my head, I might have noticed the people around me coughing and turning bright red. If I’d remembered the date (4/1/2012), I might have not have stood up and announced to the room, my voice shaking uncontrollably, “Guys this is serious. Listen! My writing sem professor thinks I plagiarized!” What are they laughing at?
“Did you?” one of my more composed roommates managed to ask. “NO!” I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hysterical at this point. But luckily my friends couldn’t contain themselves any longer. As if on cue, they simultaneously erupted with laughter. “IS THIS A JOKE?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” I screamed. The volume of their laughter increased. April f***ing fools.
My friends picked correctly when they chose me as the subject of their prank. Just to be clear: I’ve never even considered plagiarizing anything. It turns out that the boys who lived next door to me had figured out the name of my Writing Sem professor, and fabricated the entire thing. Hilarious, right?
I guess you could say I’m gullible for believing that I was being falsely accused of plagiarism. But I like to look at one of the more traumatic experiences of my life in a more positive light. Maybe my reaction was so extreme (or “perfect!”, if you ask my friends) because I can’t imagine having to leave this place before they kick us all out on graduation day. Okay, I’m done. The fact that I’m even psychoanalyzing this proves it got to me. Moral of this story: if any of you reading this are looking for a good prank, look no further