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Plagiarism & Academic Ethics

Campus Policies & Procedures

Academic Dishonesty: 

Faculty are responsible for reporting all incidences of academic dishonesty during the term. 

For more information about procedures and resources for students, visit the Student Conduct and Ethical Development office webpage.

Academic ("Grade") Grievances: 

Academic or grade grievances must be initiated by the student within 40 business days after grades are issued.  Academic grievances can concern grades, non-admittance to a course, major or program and suspension or expulsion from the university.  In general, this means that faculty must keep records for at least one term (Fall, Winter or Spring) after the course has ended.  For grade grievances, students file a report with the appropriate Dean's Office.  The Department Chair then works together with the Dean's Office to collect pertinent information such as syllabi, grading rubrics, etc.  Attempts are made to resolve the issue before the College Level Report is completed.  If the student is dissatisfied with the College Level Report, the grievance moves to the Vice President of Student Affairs' office and the Academic Grievance committee for a final resolution.

Non-academic Grievances:

Non-academic grievances are usually complaints of discrimination, harassment or inappropriate behavior.  They may be filed by a student against a student, faculty, staff or administrator.  The grievance must filed within 20 work days after the end of the academic term.

Discussion: Why do students cheat?

Do they really cheat? A February 2017 article in Campus Technology (online magazine) discusses a survey where 84% of college students reported cheating at school-- and almost all of them (97%) were never caught! McCabe, in his 2012 book, Cheating in college: why students do it and what educators can do about it, provides an analysis of a wider range of studies (where cheating incidences range from 3%-89%), paying particular attention to studies that incorporate a taxonomy of activities that can be labeled as "academic dishonesty" rather than relying solely on students' understanding of what it means to cheat.

Why do they cheat? There's a lot of information out there about why students cheat. The Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University lists four rationalizations:

  1. It's not cheating if technology is involved.
  2. It's not cheating if the assignment isn't meaningful.
  3. Students are pressed for time so done is more important than done by me.
  4. In today's world, "mash-ups" have changed the notions of ownership and originality.

A deeper understanding of academic dishonesty? In 2016-17, the Teaching Academy Book Club read Susan Blum's My Word! Plagiarism and Student Culture. Blum provides an interesting take by querying what it means to have an original idea. For example, if you receive significant editorial support for an article, to what extent does the work then remain an original idea? Or, in another example, who owns the "mash up" of digital works. Isn't Wikipedia inherently an example of an inherently commonly-owned knowledge? Blum challenges our knowledge as faculty experts to demonstrate how and why the ideas and ideals of academic honesty can be misunderstood by students. (The Chronicle of Higher Education has a commentary by Blum on "Academic Integrity and Student Plagiarism: A Question of Education, Not Ethics" available on the web.)

What can I do to prevent cheating? James Lang's book, Cheating Lessons, (join the Teaching Academy Book Club in Winter/Spring 2018 for discussions of this book) proposes specific things that faculty can do in their classes to help students to better understand how to avoid plagiarizing the ideas of others. Lang's focus is on understanding ways in which instructors can focus on increasing learning in order to minimize cheating-- with an emphasis on learning as the goal. His core belief is that students are cheating in response to a learning environment that is not working for them. You can read Lang's Chronicle of Higher Education advice column on "Cheating Lessons" (part 1, part 2 and part 3) online. Some key ideas from his book:

  • Teach students how to do what you want them to do. Rather than assuming that they know, for example, how to paraphrase, teach them what you mean by "paraphrase," as well as what exemplifies a good example and a bad example. Beyond scaffolding assignments and activities, think more broadly so that students are practicing in the way they will be assessed. For example, if you are going to give an essay exam, give them opportunities to practice and evaluate essays before they take the exam.
  • Assess more frequently (lower stakes) rather than having high stakes assignments. High stakes assignments create more anxiety and can lead to more cheating. Lower stakes, more frequent assessments help students to consolidate their learning and demonstrate it to you. Frequent, low-stakes assessments also help students to recognize what they don't know rather than proceeding towards a higher-stake assessment overly confident of one's abilities.
  • Make the assignments meaningful. Instead of focusing on "dumping knowledge" or "covering material", engage students in questions about why it matters.
  • Remember that it's not personal. "Students cheat on assignments or exams; they don't cheat on you." Rather than reacting emotionally, step aside and think about how to make this an opportunity for learning.



Two of the books are available in an e-book format through Pfau Library using your myCoyote login & password:

The Susan Blum book, My Word! Plagiarism and College Culture, is available for check-out at the Pfau Library. The TRC also has copies available on its iPads for faculty. (You can check an iPad out for the quarter. Contact Vanessa Cooper for more information about borrowing iPads.)

[Last updated September 2019]