With the long weekend in September approaching, Thandi, just wanted to get her 3000-word philosophy essay over and done with. She started early, knowing that even though it was only due after the long weekend, she’d rather finish ahead of time so that she could relax with her school friends.

They had hired a house in Langebaan overlooking the lagoon, and she knew there would be no time to work on her essay. She was looking forward to seeing two of her friends that she hadn’t seen since starting at UCT nearly three years ago.

Returning her focus to her assignment, she read through it one last time, then submitted it on Vula.

“Finally done!” Thandi smiled to her herself.

She logged out of Vula and then opened Instagram and shared her story on how elated she was finishing her assignment in advance, and bragging that it was her best work yet.

Feeling on top of the world, Thandi closed all the tabs she had used to do research and checked the weather for Langebaan, wanting to start packing for the trip the next day.

She was carefully laying out her new mini sundress and sunhat when her phone rang.

“Hey, Amanda” Thandi answered and cradled her iPhone between her neck and shoulder so that she could remove the shopping tags. “Everything okay?”

“Oh my word Thandi, I tried accessing Vula now to get our readings for this week, but as usual my password or something isn’t working. You know how technologically-challenged I am!” Amanda exclaimed.

Thandi, who was trying to figure out what sandals would best match her new dress, simply responded with, “Eish…my friend”.

“I don’t know what to do, Thandi. I mean, I wanted to use that one reading for my essay because it supports my argument. But now…” Amanda trailed off.

Wanting to help her friend, Thandi said that she would download the PDF for her and email it to her friend.

“Ah…you’re too kind, Thandi. Thank you! Wait… aren’t you preparing for your Langebaan trip tomorrow?” Amanda asked.

“Yes, I am. I have one outfit ready and just like another 10 more to pack,” Thandi giggled. “The weather is so unpredictable there. The one minute you are basking in the sunlight and then you blink, and it is overcast” Thandi sighs.

“Yeah, I know what you mean. Look, I don’t want you to have to think about schoolwork now. Why don’t you just send me your UCT password and I can log on and get it from there?” Amanda asks.

Thinking that would solve a lot of her problems, Thandi responded distractedly: “Uh, yeah sure that would save me from having to open my laptop again. Don’t want to see that thing again until after the girls’ trip. LOL. My password is kittycatcalledmatt02.”

“Wow! Thanks Thandi. You rock!” chimed Amanda.

“Like, don’t share my password with anyone else, okay?” cautioned Thandi.

“Your password is safe with me. Now go on and have an awesome weekend!” laughed Amanda.

After an amazing weekend trip, Thandi couldn’t believe that it was back to class so soon.

Upon walking to class, she remembered her conversation with Amanda and realises that she never heard from her again.

“She probably came right. I just hope she finished on time. Always late to submit, that one” she mused.

She thought she would chat to Amanda after class, but Amanda wasn’t there that day. Thandi was about to message her to ask if she was okay when her lecturer called her over.

“Plagiarism is a serious offence Thandi. Did you think I wouldn’t notice the similarities between the two assignments?” he asked sternly.

Thandi, looking puzzled asked: “What are you talking about? I worked alone on my assignment and submitted last Thursday. I never helped anyone. Whose assignment is similar to mine?”

Her lecturer looked unfazed by her questions. Thandi then opened her laptop, logged onto Vula and showed when she submitted her assignment.

“I don’t know how this could happen. I worked into the early hours of Thursday morning to finish and then submitted later that morning. I haven’t been on Vula since,” Thandi spoke softly with tears in her eyes.

Her lecturer, in a rush to get to his next class, can see Thandi’s distressed and tries to remain calm. He then asks her to show him the paper she submitted.

Hands shaking, Thandi tries to open the folder where she saved her document and it’s not there. She tries again and again but cannot find the Word document. Her lecturer, who is already late for his next class, tells Thandi to see if she can find the document while he goes and tells his next class he will be there shortly.

Alone in the lecture hall, she remembers saving it to her F: drive and eventually finds the document just as her lecturer returns.

She shows him the original document on her laptop and he then moves the laptop in front of him. He checks the author and date and time details of the documents and tells her he will be in touch, leaving the tear-stained Thandi behind.

After a little digging, Thandi’s lecturer discovered the truth. Amanda had seen Thandi’s Instagram story, and not being in the mood to work on her own assignment over a long weekend, she decided to try and get access to Thandi’s UCT password so that she could use Thandi’s essay as her own. Her plan only succeeded once she convinced Thandi to share her password.

Once she had access, Amanda didn’t even look at the Resources tab. Instead, she when straight to the Assignments tab and downloaded Thandi’s assignment. She made a few tweaks here and there, then resubmitted it as her own on that same day.

Not having anything planned for the long weekend, the lecturer decided to get a head start on his marking and saw the remarkable similarities between Amanda and Thandi’s assignment. He marked Amanda’s first and gave her 83%. After seeing Thandi’s similar draft he opted to not award any marks until he spoke to both girls. After listening to Thandi’s version of events, he saw that even though Amanda’s name appeared on the assignment, the document’s metadata still showed Thandi as the original author, meaning that Amanda had submitted Thandi’s assignment as her own. Amanda’s Turnitin report also showed a high number of similarities to Thandi’s work, while Thandi’s showed less than 10% similarities.

Thandi later confessed that she shared her password without thinking twice about it.

When presented with the truth, Amanda first tried to claim her innocence. But she soon burst into tears and admitted that she was feeling the pressure of too many assignments due at the same time, along with exams coming up. While her pleas were heard, Amanda was since referred to a disciplinary hearing to decide on the punishment for her actions.

Relieved, Thandi learnt a hard lesson about never sharing her password with anyone.