Chapter 20. Plagiarism—Crystal/Marianne
Marianne said, “Plagiarism’s my next Bad, that’s what I’ve decided.”
“Why? What will that do for your Bad Project?” asked Crystal.
“Well, it’s an academic environment, so violating its norms seems like a taboo to break…that’s the first reason. It’s stealing in a way. I don’t want to steal someone’s iPod or anything like that. Also, I think my parents would hella hate me to cheat on academics. Although really, it’s something my brothers and sisters taught me to do. My parents expect good grades, and we had low-key ways to get them without too much work.”
“If you already did it in high school, should it count for the Bad Project?” In the back of Crystal’s mind she realized that this Bad could really get her in trouble. She had worried about the fake IDs but luckily no one had challenged them at the party. But academic cheating was taken much more seriously here. She knew that “good character,” as defined by the Forscher Award selectors, would not include helping her roommate to steal someone else’s work and claim it was her own.
Marianne twirled around and then perched on her bed. “It’s for much higher stakes here, on a completely different plane.”
“Marianne, you talking like a book again. Yeah, you could get thrown out of school and plagiarism wouldn’t look good for a famous author either.”
“I am a book, c’mon, you know that. I need to get off the page, really live life.” Marianne stood in a dramatic pose, raised her eyebrows, spoke in a low, sultry voice, and went on a mock-highbrow riff, “I haven’t grown into my real self yet. But what kind of a person, what will I be when I get to try myself out? My own being? Or my parents’ ideal? I can’t feel anything yet, just like a person who has no pain nerves. I’m immature.”
She rubbed her hands together in mock obsequious joy. “I’m eager though. Is that enough to begin with, a desire to experiment and to try things that have been labeled ‘don’t touch’ all my life?” She lowered her eyebrows and sat down on her bed. “Seriously, I started to dream that I’m going to be an author. Famous, notorious even, fucking beleaguered by fans and reporters, but I can see myself, that I can do things that others deny themselves. Walk on the edge. Plagiarize. Doris Kearns Goodwin did it, got caught, and is still a famous author, right?”
Crystal enjoyed the dramatics. On the other hand, Crystal had a lot to lose here. “If it’s risk you want, you get that with plagiarism, you’re right. So what would you plagiarize?”
“How can I get something to copy?”
“That really depends on what assignment it is.” Oh, no, Crystal thought, I am helping her. I’m getting in pretty deep here. But she didn’t stop.
“How about the next laboratory paper for Biology? They’ve been giving the same lab report assignment for hella years. I could get an A paper from another year and use that.”
“If you use a paper the same instructor graded before, it may remind him of something. Today’s profs don’t keep files of past papers; my brother says they used to do that at CalTech. You have Snow, right?”
“Like if you use a paper he didn’t grade, he probably can’t prove you did it. I don’t even think the J Board would get the case if the only evidence was the prof’s concern. So that sounds like a low risk of exposure to me.” Shut up, stop helping her plan this, Crystal told herself. But she did think of things that would help keep Marianne from getting caught. She was bound to try some kind of stealing. Certainly plagiarism was happening all around them, Crystal told herself. Don’t be revoltingly goody-goody.
“Fine, that’s good, I don’t want to get caught. Then I’ll ask my TA if I can borrow his old lab report.”
“Well now, that I wouldn’t recommend. He took the class last year, and he probably took it from the same a-hole Snow, who picked him to TA the class.”
“Who can I ask then?”
“Like maybe a senior that you know through Asian American Resource Center? Someone who had another teacher, not Snow? Don’t say you plan to plagiarize, just that looking at the report would help you understand.” Aiee. Crystal felt like she had really crossed over into doing bad things now. But she felt like she needed to keep helping Marianne so she wouldn’t do anything stupid and get caught.
“Yeah, Liu didn’t take biology but I know Sae Lee from Asian American Center, and he’s a bio major. I could ask him.” Marianne began to sort through her makeup kit looking for things that were running low, making a shopping list. She said, “Before too long, it’s going to be time for the piece de resistance--the Sex Bad. Should I have sex with Liu or some raving hot blond whose hair falls over his forehead....” Marianne stopped. Crystal realized she must be looking like a mask, her face felt frozen. Marianne waved her hands, looking impatient and annoyed. She said, “Never mind, we have plenty of time to think that over.” Later, Crystal asked if she had the report from Sae. Marianne said, “Oh, sure. He gave it to me and I copied it. It’s been so long since he took bio that I’m sure Snow wouldn’t remember it.” Crystal thought she sounded offhand, cold, like she didn’t much want to tell her any more about it, so she stopped asking questions.
Over the next several days, the two didn’t eat together and had only short, insignificant interactions. Crystal started to worry that her frozen response to talking about the Sex Bad had come between them big time. But she couldn’t think how to get past the problem.