Why I Left University: shedding the leaves of denial & anxiety

Part I: Guilty of BEING plagiarized

Back in October, I came face to face with a huge decision. I guess the unpleasant thing which happened was only a contributing factor, suggesting that I am a bit of a university reject anyway. I never managed to settle or feel comfortable in student life after maturing and freshers was out of my system…

I would first like to point out that, I am not writing this post to seek attention and sympathy- I simply wish to create awareness to students and stress the importance of autonomy during your studies- any studies.

It just so happened that this negative experience happened to push me in the right direction, however I’m aware that for others, this would have been a much worse experience, provided university is their main priority in your life. This would have been a complete nightmare.

Academic Misconduct…

After a whole Summer of soaking within the positive rays of my coaching journey with The Coaching Academy, I was aiming high and ready for business!

…However, there was that little dark cloud which would essentially slam the breaks on my coaching career development for a considerable amount of time- my final year of university. The thought of going back was like pulling on the strongest, most painful bit on a wild Mustang… But I chose to ignore this feeling and place my coaching development on hold.

“I began to hyperventilate, my palms got clammy and my head started spinning with confusion- how could this be happening? how could they accuse me of this? I never cheat! I work alone! I don’t understand!”

I was checking my emails before heading out to my job at Pizza Express at the time, when I got an email through my student inbox, entitled “Academic Misconduct” (well that was all I saw). It was a formal, scary, threatening, important bold lettered email informing me that I was invited to attend a meeting as I was involved in a case of “academic misconduct”. I couldn’t read the email properly as panic had struck and as I learned on one of my training days for coaching, panic= stupid.

All logic went out of the window and the only words that sunk in was “cheated”, “use of another student’s work” and “discipline” and any other serious words. I began to hyperventilate, my palms got clammy and my head started spinning with confusion- how could this be happening? how could they accuse me of this? I never cheat! I work alone! I don’t understand! I was now a crumbling mess, slumped in front of my laptop in my empty home, panicking.

The course I was doing was Counseling & Psychotherapy, so thankfully, I was emotionally aware of what was happening, however, controlling it was a different matter. I was operating from an internal 6 year old child, scared to leave the house without adult supervision. When I managed to compose myself, I texted one of my closest friends on the course, hoping he would respond immediately. I then emailed a tutor and forwarded the scary email to ask what this was about as I could make no logical sense of it…

“I passed first time, with a first at 82% and my highest grade achieved in anything so there was no way I could be punished if someone else chose to use my work, right?…”

My friend was worried that he was involved, as we had worked closely on the project, but I was confident it wasn’t his work that was involved. By now I had concluded that somebody must have copied my work and this was backed up when I got a response from the tutor confirming that someone who was resitting over the Summer had used my work and copied the ENTIRE reference list!

I was infuriated! Yet at the same time, I was relieved that it seemed clear that I wasn’t the one who cheated as my grade was final- I passed first time, with a first at 82% and my highest grade achieved in anything so there was no way I could be punished if someone else chose to use my work, right?… WRONG!

According to the “Academic Misconduct Panel”, I was just as guilty as the cheating, lazy rogue in question. Apparently, by sharing your work with a 3rd party, even though it is complete, graded and final, is an act of “academic misconduct” and punishable by stripping the original artist (me) of my highest grade I’ve ever achieved and awarding me a ZERO for the entire module… Just let that process for a minute. My original work was used by another student, which he disrespectfully chose to present as work of his own (i.e. PLAGIARISM) which is technically an illegal act and in the mean time, drags down myself with said plagiarist to receive the exact same disciplinary.

“…these stone individuals just sat there while I ran out of the room in a state of hysterical panic, failing to provide any follow up support.”

SO, I skipped the whole build up to and experience of the meeting itself there, as I wanted to get to the point quickly, but I will stress that this was one of the most unpleasant and intimidating experiences of my life which I was completely unprepared for. I am not good with being put on the spot and I felt powerless, as they towered over me with their ridiculous leading questions- I got lost in their industrial jargon. As most of us will know, especially those of my own generation, anxiety is a well known state, affecting certain people when they lack confidence in particular situations.

Before the meeting, I had mentioned in the email responding to the “Academic Misconduct Panel” (AMP), that I am one of those people whom is prone to anxiety. Did they choose to take note of this- NO of course not, as these stone individuals just sat there while I ran out of the room in a state of hysterical panic, failing to provide any follow up support. This is a university in the 21st Century!

“It hadn’t even registered to me at this time what this person had dragged me into.”

The reason I chose to attend that meeting alone, even though I know I do have tendencies to panic in extreme situations, is because I felt so confident, knowing I was an original artist (as were the students whose work was made available to the whole year group on a university system called Blackboard for academic reference) and felt secure as the author of the original piece of work, knowing I was not, in any way guilty… Apparently, sharing with the AMP that it is common practice to share work on our course and even tutors ask us to share work with others, was not enough for them accept that perhaps we had been misguided. But hey, you know, I was a silly little girl on my own whom hadn’t taken their advice in the original email to seek support for this meeting, when I thought it would be ludicrous to even find me guilty in the first place- why would I waste time with that. I even thought this meeting was a waste of time. I guess time spent devaluing and humiliating decent students is never a waste to these people.

The person whom had copied my work was at the meeting- not in the meeting, but awkwardly sat outside with me as we awaited their decisions. It hadn’t even registered to me at this time what this person had dragged me into, so the anger had not set in. All that lay there was confusion, disbelief and a slow bubbling heat of anxiety, yet to surface within me.

I was fortunate that my tutors were therapists and were able to provide me with the support I needed- once I’d found my own way to them after pouring my heart out to my Dad on the phone, whose rage had transitioned to me and allowed me to wake up to this ridiculous reality of a situation. The tutors were so warm, I became more emotional and I have my personal tutor to thank for being so understanding and empowering me to seek advice with an appeal against this inhumane decision.

In the heat of the moment when I fled from the room with those robotic, steel eyes upon me, all I wanted to do was leave and never come back. I wanted to shed that painful bit and gallop across the open plains and away from this brick prison of a city. For the sake of the time and effort I put into writing my masterpiece, I felt it was at least worth a try to clear my name. Even though my tutors assured me that they knew I deserved that grade.

Follow the link below for Part II…

Part II: The appeal, more anxiety and trusting myself with a major decision


Originally published at heatherblogz.wordpress.com on February 19, 2017.

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