This Is NOT Your Word.


There’s a professor at Suffolk University in Boston who seems to think that certain words simply cannot be used by those inferior brown peoples. This is shameful, full stop. Yes, I know teachers need to be alert for the possibility of cheating, but it’s quite obvious that is not what happened here.

A Latina student at a university in Boston said that her professor on Thursday handed back her paper and told her, in front of the class, “This is not your language.”

After looking at more of the comments the professor left on her literature review, Suffolk University sociology major Tiffany Martínez noticed that the professor had circled the word “hence” and had written, “This is not your word,” underlining “not” twice.

And at the top of her paper, the professor had written, “Please go back & indicate where you cut & paste.”


Martínez, an aspiring professor who was born and raised in the Bronx, told BuzzFeed News that her professor had called her to the front of the senior seminar course on Thursday to receive her graded paper when she made the language comment.

“She spoke loudly enough that students at the back of the room heard and asked if I was OK after class,” Martínez said.

She felt terrified after the incident.

“I spent the rest of the class going back through every single line, every single citation to make sure that nothing had been plagiarized, even though I knew I hadn’t,” she said.

Later that day in a blog post titled “Academia, Love Me Back,” Martínez wrote about her experiences as both a first-generation college student and US citizen at what she calls “an institution extremely populated with high-income white counterparts.”

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

“As a minority in my classrooms, I continuously hear my peers and professors use language that both covertly and overtly oppresses the communities I belong to. Therefore, I do not always feel safe when I attempt to advocate for my people in these spaces,” she added.

This incident certainly makes me wonder just how many other people have been stomped on and rendered suspect by this professor over the years. Such openly racist behaviour has no part in decent society, and definitely should not be part and parcel of a person’s education.

Martinez also described how the incident made her doubt her capabilities as a scholar.

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.

Buzzfeed has the full story. One thing I know already: Ms. Martinez will make an outstanding professor, and is already much better than Prof. Not your word.


  1. Johnny Vector says

    To be fair, if you do a Google search for “hence”, you do get 269 million hits. It’s pretty obvious she plagiarized from all of them.

  2. says

    I guess it’s much easier to simply declare that a student has copied from other texts, rather than actually showing that it’s the case. It has a wonderful self-fulfilling quality to it, as well: We know that latino students don’t use language like that, because whenever they do, we declare that they’ve cheated.

    So, either they fail because their language is clumsy and unprofessional, or they fail because they’ve plagiarized. Win-win, assuming you’re a bigot.

  3. says

    It would seem that ‘hence’ has a for whites only sign on it. I use that word fairly often, guess I must be plagiarizing something or other.

  4. Saad says

    So far I’ve read four different articles/blog/FB posts about this where a white dude enters the conversation with “I don’t see how that’s racist.”

  5. says


    So far I’ve read four different articles/blog/FB posts about this where a white dude enters the conversation with “I don’t see how that’s racist.”

    There’s none so blind as those who refuse to see. I wish I could say I was surprised. Given what a common word ‘hence’ is, I’d love to hear from all the white students who were told “that’s not your language” along with a demand to show the cut & paste.

  6. says

    Clearly, a person who has, in her own words

    crafted a critical reflection piece that was published in a peer-reviewed journal managed by the Pell Institute for the Study of Higher Education and Council for Opportunity in Education. I have consistently juggled at least two jobs and maintained the status of a full-time student and Dean’s list recipient since my first year at Suffolk University. I have used this past summer to supervise a teen girls empower program and craft a thirty page intensive research project funded by the federal government.

    …should never—if they happen to have recent ancestors whose native language was not English—be expected to be able to use a simple, common-usage word.

  7. says

    I guess it’s much easier to simply declare that a student has copied from other texts, rather than actually showing that it’s the case.

    Which should be easy in a world dominated by something called “the internet”. Oh, wait, it is! Because I have caught pupils cheating and yes, I noticed by the level of the language they used. As 9th graders learning English as a foreign language. And it was really easy to demonstrate that.
    So this professor is either making a false accusation based on their personal bigotry or they provide evidence. I would hope the administration would back the student and make sure she gets justice.

  8. says

    Gilliell, just out of interest, how easy is it to spot “suspicious” passages in a pupil’s work, which signal that it needs checking to see if it’s plagiarised from t’internet? I ask ’cause I did a post on a CS Lewis piece once, and hits on it seem to come in waves—none for ages, then loads, then none again—and I’ve always wondered if it’s because there’s a question on it in exam papers somewhere.

  9. says

    Daz, when somebody who usually doesn’t manage to remember the third person singular s gives a presentation without a single mistake, using complex structures you haven’t even covered in class yet, you know something is off.
    In that case my colleague who taught that class with me handed me a note saying “this is not their work” about 2 sentences into the presentation and I knew he was right.
    Took me 10 seconds to find the thing on the net. 9.8 to type a sentence, 0.2. to do the search.
    When you know a student you can actually say if it’s not “their language”. Also when there’s an obvious change in style.
    The professor here obviously didn’t know the student or they had known that yes, this is very much their style.

  10. numerobis says

    It’s really easy if you know the student to pick up on their work changing quality drastically — no matter the reason. Sometimes it’s due to plagiarism; that’s straightforward to work out (and there’s programs out there to help you find it even if hidden). Sometimes, though it hasn’t happened to me, it’s ghostwriting; that’s much harder to prove. And sometimes it’s because something clicked, and the student suddenly made a huge jump in understanding. But that’s rare — normally the change is more gradual.

  11. says


    And sometimes it’s because something clicked, and the student suddenly made a huge jump in understanding. But that’s rare — normally the change is more gradual.

    Which is even less likely to happen with the level of writing. It’s not for nothing that we have classes for academic writing in college. You work hard, learn to recognise your own mistakes and patterns (I spent a whole semester weeding out the tendency to start sentences with “So, ….”) and gradually your writing becomes better.
    Which again has only some bearing on this case as you can clearly see from the student’s previous writing that this is their actual level and style

  12. rq says

    I am amazed. Basically anything anywhere I write is plagiarism because none of the words are mine! They’ve all been invented by someone else! *GASP!*
    No, nothing racist about this at all. I have been convinced. :P

  13. johnson catman says

    Like Giliell, I hope the administration would look into this incident and support the student.

    On the other hand, maybe she should have used por lo tanto in place of hence. (just did a google search for english to spanish for “hence”) (/sarcasm)

  14. numerobis says

    Giliell: indeed. I was continuing with Daz’ question.

    If you are a good prof and have graded your students’ work before, it’s obvious when they cheat, and nowadays it’s easy to check.

    Corollary: if you believe the word “hence” used by a university student (or a middle-schooler, or anyone) is plagiarism and that’s all the proof you have, you are a shit prof.

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