What are my rights regarding the re-use of a paper in college that I previously handed in for another class?

My university uses a website to check for plagarism on papers/essays. Upon reusing a paper I’d already written, my professor informed me my paper was red flagged by the system and he could not give me a grade for the work. The paper came back has having been previously used by myself. In no policy or rule is this referenced to or stated as being a violation. Can I actually be penalized for a rule that doesn’t exist? If this situation was anywhere in the school’s academic integrity policy or rulebook I would be out of luck but it is not. The rulebook reads “the use of another’s work without credit”.

Asked on November 5, 2011 under Business Law, Arizona


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Your professor may do this. Whether or not you committed plagarism per se, a professor has the right to decide if the work handed in is work that meets the assignment's requirements, is worthy of receiving credit, how much credit to give for it, what grade to give for it, etc. Clearly in this case, the professor believes that not producing original work for this assignment does not warrant any grade or credit, any more than not handing in a paper at all would warrant a grade or credit.

It's not a matter of violating an academic integrity policy, or the consequences for such a violation (e.g. suspension or explusion); it's a matter that the professor has judged that not handing in an original piece created for the assignment does not warrant a grade, and that is within his discretion.

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