The Things we Take for Granted

There is something about MIT that horrifies me and I’m not talking about I-On or the Food Court food. What horrifies me is how readily we accept and engage in copying whether it’s for assignments or labs or even exams. I’m aware that this isn’t a popular sentiment but before you dismiss this as a self-righteous diatribe delivered from a blind moral high ground, hear me out. I have my reasons.

The primary reason all of us are here is that at the end of four years in this town, the University will hand us a shiny piece of paper that claims that we are capable of going out into the world and working in our respective fields. If we want this piece of paper to mean something, then perhaps we should accept that we’re supposed to work to get it.

Why is copying instead of working such an accepted fact? Innovation, creativity, ideation. None of these ever happened on other people’s efforts. Neither did gaining knowledge or understanding. The academic curriculum cannot give us everything that we need to know but it can give us a lot more than it does now if we tried solving the assignments or working in the labs instead of spending three hours on 9gag. Make fun of Bollywood, if you wish to, for blatantly ripping off plot-lines from other movie industries but understand that you’re doing the same thing. And at least, Bollywood puts its own spin on things.

It’s easy to understand, though, why we copy in labs. Writing lab manuals is horribly tedious. So when a petition was started to eliminate the writing of lab manuals in I&CT, it’s not surprising that a lot of students jumped behind it. The college responded favourably. They started to reduce the writing of the manual and replace it with a system in which the students would have to upload their code to Piazza instead. What is surprising, and terrifying, is that this attempt was temporarily withdrawn because of a protest by students who, when faced with the prospect of actual work decided they’d rather copy code and complain overtly about how tedious it is. There was progress being made and we were the ones who opposed it.

As a second year Computer Science student, I (or rather, my parents) have paid the college ₹2,90,000 for one year of education. In this one year I have 5 four credit subjects, 6 three credit subjects and 5 labs. Assuming that all subjects and labs are taught for 12 weeks each as given in the course plan, this results in 636 hours of class time. Dividing my tuition fees by the number of class hours gives me a total of ₹456 per hour of class.

In Manipal terms, that’s 13 Oreo shakes per hour of class. Your exact figures may vary depending on your year and stream but it would probably fall into the region of ₹400-500 (or 11.5 to 14 Oreo shakes). Whether what the college gives us enough in education and resources to match the value of what we pay is a debate for another time. Even if you’re happy with what you get from the college overall, you cannot deny that there is always room for improvement. If, on the other hand, you’re in the camp that believes we do not get enough, you must have accepted that change, even when it happens, takes time. The system cannot transform itself overnight.

But ‘the system’ is not just a group of officials buried in the offices of AB1 or a group of experienced professors who collectively decide how many pages of lab work we need to write per semester. The system is also us, the students, and while we petition and fight for the changes we believe the college needs to make to improve the quality of our education, perhaps we also need to start changing ourselves.

And the simplest yet most effective way we can do this? Stop taking the easy way out.

I don’t expect to see all my classmates suddenly working independently the next time I walk into my lab. I don’t expect to not see assignment answers on the class group. I don’t expect that there will be nobody copying in the sessional. What I do hope is that the next time there’s a lab or an assignment is handed out in class, you think about the ₹456 and wonder, is there more I can get from this?

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  • vikhyathkamath

    Being a blogger myself, I was about to write on this issue (I will still write it, with a sightly different take). But I’m glad that you did!

    It was smart of you to break the fee structure and get the hour’s worth of money that’s going down the drain.

    I can proudly say that I’ve never ever copied in an exam the entire life. Yes, I may score an average marks but whatever I score are completely mine!

    Yes, it’s an over-ambitious hope, but still, this should make people guilty of cheating tomorrow.

  • Soham Dongargaonkar

    Great post. The truth has been spoken.

    • Pramodith

      Good to know people with this opinion still exist.Copying is corruption just because money isn’t involved doesn’t make it OK to copy.Moreover why do people want to live off the efforts of others?The ironic to thing is that people who claim that they don’t care about marks are usually the people who copy.

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