As an international student, I found hard to integrate well with other classmates. I only have two relatively close friends in my class. When my classmate asked me to send my code to him, I did not reject him as I was afraid of losing this friend. Now, I feel extremely regret as I am facing an accusation of plagiarism. I will never allow others to access my work. I actually have evidence that all works are done by me.

However, I worked extremely hard on my assignment and amended it four times before submission. I do not think that I deserve mark reduction. Are there any things that I can do to change the professor's mind instead of mark reduction? I hope I can do any other things to compensate for my fault instead of mark reduction.

  • What have you done already to discuss your case with your instructor? What level course is this (freshman ... senior)? Were you told at the start that all work was to be done individually? The approach you can take depends on the answers to some of these questions. Nov 30, 2018 at 1:28
  • Actually, I handed in two assignments. I allowed my friend to access my codes for these two assignments. The first assignment was flagged for plagiarism. My professor sent me a warning email a few weeks after the submission of the first assignment. He mentioned that that email is the final warning and I will be accused of plagiarism if flagged again. However, I already submitted my second assignment when I received that email. I have no chance to change the content of my assignment. Nov 30, 2018 at 1:39
  • Regarding your questions, I talked with my professor and he said he is pending for plagiarism report. I disclosed everything to my professor at that time. I cannot make any decision at this moment. I am a freshman. I was told at the first lecture to do all works individually. However, after checking the slides of the first lecture, the professor did not explain very detailedly about plagiarism. My friend asked me for my code at the middle of the semester. Professor's wording did not come up from my mind at that moment. Nov 30, 2018 at 1:45

2 Answers 2


You may plead your case to your instructor in writing as you have here. Your best option is to demonstrate that you did not get the warning of the first offense until AFTER you had already committed the second offense.

Agree that what you did was wrong. Admit that you did the wrong out of partial ignorance (you knew a rule existed but did not understand its implications fully). Demonstrate that you were given a warning of the first violation only after the second violation had already occurred. Show that you immediately stopped the unlawful action at the warning. Ask that your total penalty be reduced (but not removed) in accord with a plea of doing the wrong from partial ignorance rather than willful intent. See some of these legal readings for insight.




This is not necessarily a criminal case, it is more a civil one. Also, this is not necessarily one where the full implications of the rule were made clear enough at the outset.

On this latter note, since you have read the code now, you absolutely cannot plead ignorance that a code even existed. You can only plead ignorance of the full implications of the code. You should keep your personal story of a need for friendship out of the discussion. You gave the other person the code with the intent to offer insight, not to offer an answer key. You ignored the fact that your action could be easily abused (by a "cheater") and you were ignorant of the fact that such abuse by a cheater had real consequences not only for the cheater but also for you.

Having had cases such as yours multiple times in my career, I am well tuned to the distinction between intent and ignorance. Your instructor may be as well, and he/she may be willing to provide grace with sufficient grounds that remorse is sincere. On the other hand, I am also just as well tuned to spot someone who wants to play games when pleading for reduced penalties. Do not go down that path, lest your instructor is equally well tuned.

Finally, chalk this one up to experience. Some students take a lot longer to have this type of situation hit them. By that time, they often more than deserve the strong penalty that follows. You can now move to the next level of your life with greater confidence that such will not be the case in your future.

  • Thank you very much for your detailed reply. Now I understand the meaning of ignorance and intent. I have learned a lesson, not just about plagiarism, but also about some legal knowledge. Nov 30, 2018 at 15:55

You are entirely at your professor's mercy or lack thereof.

As a student, you are responsible for knowing the regulations of the course and the school. This includes plagiarism and academic misconduct charges. You were told to do all work individually. On multiple occasions you violated that principle and knowingly did so because you did not want to lose a friendship. You intentionally made a choice and now you must face the consequences for making that selection which fell afoul of regulations.

The fact that you did all the work individually does not clear you of misconduct because you intentionally aided someone else in violating the academic misconduct regulations. If your friend had stolen your work without your knowledge, that would be an entirely different issue. However, you willingly participated in the process, which makes you just as much of a "cheater" as your "friend."

So, you may try to argue about your lack of culpability but your instructor is within rights to pursue academic misconduct charges against you. Any offer of a "reduced" sanction or punishment is entirely at your instructor's discretion.

  • Thank you very much for your reply. I understand that I am guilty of violating the regulations. But I do not think that my intention of violating the rules is as strong as that of cheaters. I did not initiate the whole process. I also told my friend not to copy, just get some ideas and solve the problems himself (although I cannot provide written evidence for this to the professor, I did say this). If I am a real cheater, I do not deserve any marks as the marks should reflect the effort I put. For my case, I think I can have other ways to compensate for my fault. Nov 30, 2018 at 4:08
  • I was totally screwed up and feeling guilty for the whole week. I think it is also a punishment for me. Nov 30, 2018 at 4:13
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    @wintershelter Misconduct has no "lower level". It is or it is not. We have a saying ... Ignorance of the law is no excuse. However, see my note below. Nov 30, 2018 at 5:07
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    I'd note that the professor did provide "mercy" here, in starting with a warning. "Mark reduction" is more mercy still, as it is probably within the professor's power to fail the student. Nov 30, 2018 at 17:40
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    @wintershelter Please note ASimpleAlgorithm's comment here, I think it is very very important to realize that a mark reduction is already a lesser punishment than what is possible, especially after a warning was given. In any approach you take to try to lessen your punishment more, it is very important to realize the leniency you have already been granted, otherwise you may come across as unappreciative of the severity of the offense which will make it harder to grant you any further leniency.
    – Bryan Krause
    Nov 30, 2018 at 18:43

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