Instructors confront forms of academic dishonesty on campus

Feb. 18, 2013

Nick Beadleston
nbeadles@uccs.edu

Due to cheating allegations at several prestigious universities across the nation, many schools are reconsidering their policies on academic dishonesty.

UCCS’ stance on academic dishonesty is covered by the Student Code of Conduct while specific policies to enforce academic honesty vary.

Article 7 sub point n. of the code stipulates a student may face discipline if he or she engages in “any form of academic misconduct, including plagiarism, fabrication, falsification, and other forms of cheating on examinations, tests, quizzes, research projects, and assignments.”

The Code of Student Conduct defines fabrication as “making up data, notes, or other research information and reporting them” and defines falsification as “manipulation of the research process, or altering data, such that the reported results are not accurate.”

The College of Letters, Arts and Sciences goes on to define plagiarism as the “use of distinctive ideas or words belonging to another person, without adequately acknowledging that person’s contributions.”

Quentin Martin, an English professor, wrote in an email that he typically gets one to two plagiarism cases a year in his introductory classes.

“It does tend to be a cut-and-paste job when it occurs, and at times it probably arises out of ignorance about what constitutes plagiarism – it’s on the web, it’s ‘public’ information that can be used by any user: that seems to be the thinking,” Martin said.

“Also students will rearrange a few words from an original source and think that’s now ‘their’ product. And of course others do it knowingly as a shortcut,” he added.

In order to safeguard against plagiarism, Rex Welshon, associate dean, College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, indicated many instructors on campus require students to submit their papers to turnitin.com, an online database that analyzes submissions and checks for plagiarism.

Others, like Bill Myers, an English instructor, said the first tool used to identify plagiarism is Google.

Another form of plagiarism can come from foreign exchange students. This stems from a difference in opinions on the concept of individual ownership, which is less prevalent in more communal cultures, such as China.

According to the Purdue OWL website, “some mainstream interpretations of academic cultures outside of the North American context claim that copying another author’s words is widely accepted and even considered a compliment to the author.”

The Writing Center, located in Columbine Hall, Room 316, has several resources for educating students about avoiding plagiarism.

Amiee Morgado, a tutor at the Writing Center, explained how citing sources and crediting other writers strengthens a paper since it shows a student has done the research to support their statements.

While many can spot plagiarism, others work to prevent cheating when it comes to taking exams. Some instructors in the chemistry department and other sciences have adapted specific policies to curb academic dishonesty.

The syllabus for Jerry Phillips’ Biochemistry Principles course states, “Students may not leave the classroom during an exam unless they’ve completed the exam and are turning it in. Students who leave before completing their exam will not be allowed to return to the classroom.”

Phillips indicated students may have used notes and cell phones in the bathroom during exams.

He does not allow cell phones in his class, and a zero score will be assigned to those students caught with one.

The syllabus describes his cellphone policy, stating, “Consequently, any student using a cellphone during class will be asked to leave and the student will be reported to the university’s judicial officer. This is consistent with the university’s policy for reporting disruptive behavior.”

While designed to uphold academic honesty, different instructors use different methods to curb cheating.

“We talk about some of these things at meetings, and they become unofficial department policy,” Phillips said.

Penalties for academic dishonesty vary by college, but the most common penalties include receiving a lower grade on an assignment, failing an assignment, being forced to retake an exam, having a course lowered by a letter grade and failing a course.

If the infraction is more severe, more applicable actions will be taken by the appropriate authorities.

Welson summarized the procedure for an academic dishonesty case: “Basically, the cases runs through college processes and then, if unresolved at the college level, goes to the vice chancellor’s office, where a committee takes it up.”

In addition, students who have pending academic dishonesty cases cannot graduate until the case is resolved.

Obtaining more specific information, including specific statistics on how many students have been accused and subsequently disciplined for academic dishonesty, is not easily accessible, as most information is protected under Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA).

Eleanor Skelton contributed reporting.

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