Jenny looked up on the bulletin board and found her student id. She pulled her hair out of her eyes and looked closer. Next to it were five asterisks. *****. What did that mean? Everyone else had scores. Some high. Some low. But no one else had asterisks. She felt a stab of fear through her insides. She prayed it wasn’t what she thought. She didn’t get much sleep that night and then she showed up the next day for Dr. Stone’s class. She stayed in her seat after class, waiting for the other students to leave so she could talk privately.
“Jenny, there is something important I need to discuss with you in my office,” Dr. Stone said taking the initiative. “Please follow me.”
Jenny followed silently. This was bad. Very bad.
Dr. Stone closed her door behind them. “Have a seat Jenny,” she said.
Jenny sat down in front of the desk while Dr. Stone sat down behind it. Dr. Stone fixed her student with her steely gray eyes from behind a pair of spectacles. She was an imposing woman, with gray streaked hair pulled back in a bun. Her mouth was stern and her lips painted deep red.
“Do you know what this is about?” Dr. Stone asked.
Jenny clasped her hands together to prevent them from shaking. Then she took an errant strand of curly sandy blonde hair and slipped it back behind her ear. She didn’t want to divulge too much, so she hedged her bets. “Something about my test?” That much was surely a given.
“Jenny,” Dr. Stone said. “I’m giving you a chance to make things easier on yourself. To handle this like an adult. Now why don’t you tell me why you are here.”
Jenny considered the offer. Then considered the consequences and quickly made up her mind, decided not to lie – but telling the truth was out of the question.
“I don’t know,” she said, her voice trembling, her blue eyes wide with uncertainty.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” Dr. Stone shook her head. Then she flipped her monitor around so Jenny could see it and tapped a key on her keyboard. “It would have been much easier if you had handled this as an adult.”
Jenny watched the black and white video with growing despair. It was of Dr. Stone’s classroom. The students were all concentrating on the papers on their desk. All save one. Jenny watched herself glance around furtively, then bring a small piece of paper from her pocket and hide it in her hand. Glancing to and fro, she glanced in her palm then jotted down on her test.
“Jenny,” Dr. Stone said. “You are aware of this university’s zero tolerance policy in regards to cheating, are you not?”
“Yes ma’am.” Jenny’s voice squeaked as she fought the urge to cry.
“And what is the penalty?”
She wanted to say, I don’t know. But felt she would get in an even worse fix by doing so.
“Expulsion.” Jenny sniveled, losing the battle against the tears that welled in her eyes and streamed down her pretty cheeks.
“And you know dear,” Dr. Stone said. “That this would be on your permanent record. I can’t think of a major university that would want to hire someone of such dubious character. But it isn’t the end of the world, maybe you can find a community college of sorts.”
“I’m sorry ma’am.” Jenny wiped her eyes and nose with the back of her hand. This was horrible. How could she tell her parents? What would this do to her plans? Her life’s plans were falling in shambles from this one mistake.
“It’s a shame that you have to pay such a high price for your first offense,” Dr. Stone said. “Really, your behavior should have been corrected well before college, but society has seen fit to send me students who are supposed to be adults…yet are merely spoiled children.”