In the past three academic years, 64 cases of academic dishonesty were referred to the CMU’s student conduct office for additional sanctions.
However, Thomas Idema, the director of the Office of Student Conduct, said this number doesn’t show the whole scope of academic dishonesty.
“This number only reflects the cases that were referred to the Office of Student Conduct by faculty where the Office of Student Conduct considered additional sanctioning as outlined in the academic integrity policy,” Idema said.
Academic dishonesty can include a wide-range of behaviors such as cheating on an exam, plagiarism, failing to cite a source in a footnote, fabricating and submitting the same assignment in multiple classes.
“We will see students submit one paper for one class and then for another,” Idema said. “Usually it’s people submitting work that is not their own.”
A study conducted by Stanford University found 82 percent of alumni said they cheated during their undergraduate college career.
According to a fact sheet by the Educational Testing Service and the Ad Council, college students’ reasons for cheating include believing there is little chance of being caught, they will not serve penalties for cheating, the instructor doesn’t seem to care and everyone else is doing it.
The fact sheet also says cheating is more likely to happen in a required course. Students who have extremely high or low GPAs are more likely to cheat. Also, people majoring in engineering or business are more likely to cheat than other majors.
Idema also said faculty are always encouraged to report cases of academic dishonesty, but it is not required.
“We like to have all instances of academic dishonesty referred to us, so we can keep track of it,” Idema said. “If you are cheating in the math and English department, those two are not necessarily talking to each other.”
“If all cases of cheating were reported to us and we find someone has a real problem with cheating, we can talk to that student or take other actions,” Idema said. “That doesn’t happen if cases don’t get report to us.”
Furthermore, the Office of Student Conduct is only referred to for instances of undergraduate student academic dishonesty. Cases of academic dishonesty for graduate students are handled by the College of Graduate Studies.
“I don’t know why undergraduate students and graduate students are treated differently,” Idema said. “There could be a good, logical reason, but no one has ever explained it to me.”
Idema said one of the reasons he is concerned with academic integrity cases being handled is he has never trained anyone in the College of Graduate Studies to be a conduct proceedings officer.
He also thinks the procedures laid out for graduate students muddles what is a relatively smooth process for undergraduate students.
Idema said he plans to go before the academic senate soon and ask that academic dishonesty cases for all students be handled by the Office of Student Conduct.
Kara Beery is the coordinator for undergraduate and graduate programs. Her office handles academic dishonesty cases for graduate students.
Beery said she and David Ash, interim dean of graduate studies, are aware Idema would like to change the academic dishonesty policy, but don’t know enough yet to say if they will support the change.
Beery said the graduate school has not kept a tally of the number of academic dishonesty cases. Beery said she is new to her position and the person who previously handled dishonesty cases maintained paperwork on each case, but not a tally.
Policies for academic dishonesty
Under CMU’s policy of academic integrity, instructors have discretion as to how they handles cases of academic dishonesty because “allegations of academic misconduct arise are many and varied, no single process will be appropriate to every situation.”
The policy suggests professors should contact the student they believe to have committed academic dishonesty within 10 days of the incident.
Then the professor and student should discuss the circumstance, while there can be a representative of the Ombuds office or a mutually agreeable third-party attend to serve as a neutral facilitator or observer. However, neither party can be accompanied by an attorney or another advisor.
If the professor believes academic dishonesty occurred, the instructor can give a punishment ranging from a warning to failing the course. The instructor can do this without informing the Office of Student Conduct.
“If the student doesn’t like the decision, he or she can appeal it. This comes back to due process,” Idema said.
However, if the student declines to speak with the instructor, that person forfeits their right for an appeal. Students have 10 days to submit their appeal.
“If you don’t participate in the process, you lose that ability (to appeal),” Idema said.
The appeal goes to the instructor and the dean of the college of the class the alleged violation occurred. For example, if the violation occurred in a music class ,the dean of the College of Communication of Fine Arts would decide the appeal.
The dean has to form a committee of faculty and students to make a recommendation on the appeal.
“The appeal board job is not to rehear the case, but look at the steps the professor of that class take to determine if they were cheating,” Idema said. “It’s not their job to say if they would have done the same thing, but if the professor’s decision makes sense.”
The appeal board also determines if the sanction makes sense for the violation. The board could recommend a harsher sanction for the violation than was originally given to the students.
However, the dean makes the final decision.
This whole process does not involve the Office of Student Conduct and could happen without the office knowing of the incident.
If the professor believes additional sanctions need to be given to the student, they can refer the case to the Office of Student Conduct if the student is an undergraduate.
That doesn’t mean there will be additional sanctions, that’s for the Office of Student Conduct to determine.
Idema says many times if the student has never had an issue before with academic integrity, he will just give students a warning, but will still keep a file on the situation.
“By the time they see me, it’s not question if a violation happened or not. The question is does it rise to a level where additional sanctions are needed,” Idema said.
Some sanctions the Office of Student Conduct could give to a student include anything from probation to suspension.
“We only take action if they want us to, but we wish everyone at least let us know when something occurs so we can at least keep track of it,” Idema said.
In addition, a department can follow a formal proceeding to kick-out a student in an academic program due to academic dishonesty. However, even if that person is no longer welcomed by the department, he or she could be a student at CMU.
Views around campus on cheating
Alice Tait has been a professor in the journalism department at CMU for more than 25 years.
Tait said that she hasn’t encountered many cases of academic dishonesty, but when cases do come up, she proceeds with tact.
“Usually the issue is solved in the office,” Tait said. “There is no formula, it depends on the situation.”
Tait said that students shouldn’t feel the need to take credit for someone else’s work because it’s acceptable to cite other sources.
“It’s different when you use the whole work, but it’s ok to use someone’s thoughts,” Tait said. “Just make sure you cite it.”
Some students say the fear of failing a class or being kicked out of school keeps them from cheating.
Junior Clarke Levitt from Troy said she has never cheated because she thinks the experience of being caught would be humiliating.
“I am terrified of the idea of being caught cheating in test and being called out by the instructor,” Levitt said. “It’s just not worth the risk.”
Junior Erin Kelly from Troy said it has never occurred to cheat.
“It just been ingrained in me by everyone cheating is wrong, so it’s never tempting to me,” Kelly said