I submitted a philosophy essay to a professor for his 2nd year class that was almost the same as an essay I submitted to a TA for the same professor's 1st year class.

I thought that I had authorization from my professor but I recently discovered that I needed permission in writing. It's been almost 4 years now and I graduated last year...can I get in trouble for this/get my degree revoked? Would the university have kept a record of my assignments from both first and second year? Would this written permission only be submitted between the student and the professor or does the university keep the letter/email on record?

Any info on the types of penalties that could result from this would also be appreciated.

Thanks in advance for any insight.


In theory, you could get in trouble for this, but the risk is very low. Universities generally retain the authority to change grades and revoke degrees forever, at least when matters of academic dishonesty are involved.

However, nobody is likely to be looking over your old work to find this. It probably doesn't even exist in recorded form any more. So I see little cause to concern yourself, especially if this was a product of a misunderstanding.

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  • 3
    Agreed. It probably doesn't exist at all —My university requires records to be kept for two years, although for accreditation stuff we may keep student work for longer. But 4 years later, even if they do notice, they'd probably just assume the student had professor permission to reuse. – user0721090601 Dec 16 '16 at 19:52

As others have commented, it is possible but unlikely for you to get in trouble this far out from the course.

It is worth noting that most academics do not have that much time or energy to focus on plagiarism cases this far removed. It should really have been flagged earlier in the process and rarely is it brought up again later.

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Objective parties don't seem to be able to assuage your concern very effectively. Have you thought about how you might exorcise this particular anxiety so that you can move on?

Here's an idea:

Write to the instructor of the course where you turned in the rehash of the previous work, and make some proposals for an alternate project you could work on over December and January, to substitute for the one you are concerned about.

The other thing you could consider would be a few sessions of a special type of therapy called EMDR. It's very helpful for getting out of one specific thing one is stuck on.


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  • I've tried to get a hold of my professor but he is retired now and the TA from the first year class is apparently no longer a TA. Not really anything I can do. It's unlikely to be a thing but just wanted to see what advice I could get. Thanks for the insight. – ATomz Dec 19 '16 at 13:55
  • @ATomz - Well, if you find you are still having trouble moving on from this, perhaps you could approach the person who currently teaches the course. The reason I've focused on this aspect, the how to move on, is that I noticed you asked several versions of the same question. That suggested to me that you might be somewhat stuck. If I am mistaken, so much the better! – aparente001 Dec 20 '16 at 2:09
  • Yeah, you're right. It's just a hard question that I haven't got a straight answer for and even the school registrar's office and my old academic advisor say it's "unlikely" and "up to the prof" and not really any definitive answers to give me peace of mind. It's these kinds of things that are hard for me to move on from with the small chance that it could happen in the back of my mind. I'm not a fan of gray areas and I'm kind of angry that the university doesn't have measures in place to prevent dilemmas like this. I almost registered in another course proactively in case I lose the degree. – ATomz Dec 20 '16 at 12:16
  • The only solution I can think of other than taking another course would be the fact that they would have to prove it with the two essays as evidence. Although they have the two essays, they can't really prove the professor deducted marks off the essay to make it more fair to other students, or if there was another revised/new essay submission of mine at the time that their negligence caused them to misplace and would show that the professor isn't remembering the circumstances correctly. I would argue that these things can only be fully proven at the time of the fact.... – ATomz Dec 20 '16 at 15:01
  • I gave you a funny picture to give you some perspective. Please review my specific suggestions. – aparente001 Dec 20 '16 at 19:36

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