Student Accused of Plagiarism Because She Used The Word 'Hence'

"Not your language" — a professor's note on Tiffany Martínez's paper lays bare the discrimination and racism ingrained in our education system.

Tiffany Martínez, a Latina student at Suffolk University in Boston, was left hurt and confused — and soon outraged —after her professor assumed that she could not use the word "hence" properly in a paper because of her ethnicity. 

In a now-viral blogpost titled "Academia, Love Me Back," Martínez recalls the incident where her sociology professor emphatically said, “This is not your language,” as he handed back her paper.

The professor was loud enough to be heard across the classroom. Her classmates later asked Martínez if she was OK.

Tiffany Martinez

As the U.S. citizen and first-generation college student pored over the paper afterwards, she noticed that the professor had circled the word, "hence" and remarked, “This is not your word,” underlining "not" twice. At the top of her paper, he had written, “Please go back and indicate where you cut and paste.”

An aspiring academic, Martínez was obviously terrified to see how her ideas and her research will never be recognized and considered capable because she was a person of color.

In her Facebook post, she wrote, “My last name and appearance immediately instills a set of biases before I have the chance to open my mouth.”

Martínez detailed how the one person she aspired to become squashed her hopes right from the onset.

“In this interaction, my undergraduate career was both challenged and critiqued. It is worth repeating how my professor assumed I could not use the word 'hence,' a simple transitory word that connected two relating statements. The professor assumed I could not produce quality research. The professor read a few pages that reflected my comprehension of complex sociological theories and terms and invalidated it all. Their blue pen was the catalyst that opened an ocean of self-doubt that I worked so hard to destroy. In front of my peers, I was criticized by a person who had the academic position I aimed to acquire. I am hurting because my professor assumed that the only way I could produce content as good as this was to 'cut and paste.' I am hurting because for a brief moment I believed them.”

“It’s surreal how overwhelmingly supportive the academic community has been, but they’re also telling me, ‘This isn’t going to end now,’” Martínez told BuzzFeed News.

In the comment section of her Facebook post, many others came forward with their own stories of how the educational system placed little trust in them. A black commentator recounted how a teacher in fifth grade gave her an F and yelled at her.

“I got an ‘F’ with the word ‘PLAGIARIZED’ written at the top in bold red letters. She proceeded to yell at me and tell me to shut up (in front of my peers) when I protested,” the commentator wrote. “I’m 30 and I still think of that sometimes.” 

The incident has been reported, and the Suffolk University has initiated a probe.



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