Why Does Plagiarism Have More Severe Consequences than Sexual Assault?

It's a common component of every syllabus. Something engraved in our minds since grade school: plagiarism is absolutely intolerable. Assignments, tests, and professors alike warn you of the certain crucifixion that awaits cheaters. No matter your grade or age, cheating is portrayed as disgraceful by society at large.

Now, I ask that you replace "plagiarism" with "sexual assault" in the preceding paragraph. Shouldn't sexual assault be classified as just as intolerable? Equally punishable? Merit the same shame and disgrace? Sadly, this isn't the case.

Why is the world and the education system so hell-bent on purging plagiarizers?  When committing plagiarism, no other individual is severely harmed; after all, "you only cheat yourself". This isn't to undermine the severity of plagiarism; when you plagiarize, you violate societal trust, a core component of any academic community.

However, if plagiarism solely undermines trust on an abstract level, why isn't sexual harassment/assault categorized as a worse crime? When a perpetrator commits sexual harassment/assault, not only is a societal value broken, but an actual individual is physically and psychologically harmed.  Society loathes cheaters, yet we seem much more forgiving of those who commit sexual harassment/assault.

Just being suspected of plagiarism is enough to merit academic consequences in some fields. Meanwhile, the amount of evidence necessary to punish suspects of sexual harassment/assault proves incredibly difficult to satisfy.

In other words, it's simply ridiculous. We have entire committees and boards dedicated to dealing with suspected cheaters. But the school system still struggles to fund and maintain committees designed to investigate and prevent sexual harassment/assault.

We are taught the worse a crime, the greater penance or punishment required. In the case of sexual harassment/assault, this is far from reality. When plagiarism occurs, a scholar is stripped of their grade, awards, job, and dignity. However, as evidenced by the plethora of actors and politicians who continue to serve and entertain us, those guilty of sexual harassment/assault are all too often allowed to remain with their high-paying jobs, prestige, and dignity intact. 

Have we determined that "copying and pasting" is a worse crime than harassment and assault?

We need to change. Not only by the board of education, but all the school systems on how reprehensible sexual harassment/assault is. Syllabi need to implant the same fear of committing plagiarism towards sexual harassment/assault. This fear needs to come at an early age just as plagiarism to be just as effective. It's time to address these issues so #metoo movements are no longer common and seen as normal in our society.

Image source: Pexels

I want to live in a world where students fear committing sexual harassment/assault just as much (and more) as they fear accidental plagiarism.

Cover image source: Pexels