Recently, MckMama posted a story about how she lost a source of revenue for her family because several years ago she forgot to cite the author of a photography tip that she posted in her blog.
Let me start of by saying that I do not disagree with the decision for that particular source of revenue to terminate their agreement with her. She messed up. They have assets to protect. It makes sense. I am not in any way saying that they shouldn't have done so.
I am also not saying that she was blameless. She messed up, which she fully admits in her posting.
What I am saying... is that I understand where she's coming from. I feel for her. And yes, I feel badly for her.
Reading her post rushed me back to my senior year in college. As a history major, the majority of our work was researching & writing, writing & researching. One of my professors, my favorite at the time, whom I had much respect for, and whom I'd had for several past classes, accused me of plaguerizing.
I had not plaguerized anything.
He could not provide me with a particular reference from my work that was plagiarized (probably because there were none), but insisted that I had. We argued, albeit uneffectively, mostly because I was simultaneously in shock and crushed.
I received a zero on the assignment, which was a large portion of our grade, and busted my butt to squeak out with a D+ average for the class.
His claim of plagiarism went into my file at the university, and I was informed by the department head that if I had any other such claims during my time there I would be kicked out of the department and denied my degree.
Such stiff penalties, yet the professor was not required to provide any concrete proof of the supposed offense.
I was mortified.
Yes, I was worried that another professor could decide they didn't like me, make such a claim, and then my years of work would be down the drain as I would be denied my degree.
Yes, at the moment it happened I was worried I wouldn't be able to pass the class, which was required for my degree, since this zero was now such a large portion of my grade.
But mostly... I was mortified that anyone would think that of me.
It still haunts me at moments, like when I read MckMama's post. That feeling inside, that someone would think you could possibly do something so unethical. That someone else thinks you are a horrible enough person to intentionally steal another's material. That sick feeling in your stomach when you know that no matter how innocent you were, or at least your intentions were, that it doesn't matter at all, and some people are just gonna think that you really are that awful. And there's nothing you can do about it.
It stinks. It's a horrible, horrible feeling.
And I suspect that, although she had no intention of plagiarizing, that she will think of this incident for many moons to come.
Because I think of my incident, still, over ten years after it happened. It still haunts me on some level.