Every syllabus in every section of every class has a portion dedicated to an explanation of Central Michigan University’s academic dishonesty policy.
Although the policy is always mentioned and examples are provided, the university fails to provide a specific definition of what qualifies as an academically dishonest practice.
In addition to blatant copying and cheating, students can also face punishment for failing to cite sources and for submitting the same assignment to multiple classes. Students even face consequences for plagiarizing themselves.
When reported, the Office of Student Conduct documents the incident and might initiate a formal proceeding for disciplinary action. However, it’s not required that instructors report any incidents at all.
That’s where the structure of academic integrity is failing.
Generally, students who violate the policy for the first time would be left with a warning and probably a decreased grade on an assignment.
By not requiring, but rather “encouraging” cases to be reported, the Office of Student Conduct is left with an incomplete history for every student, allowing each to appear as their first time.
For example, a student who is caught plagiarizing in a biology classroom would essentially be given a chance to cheat in an English classroom – receiving nothing but another warning, when a repeat offense might have called for further punishment.
Professors often take it upon themselves to dole out punishments as they see fit, ignoring the system of formal proceedings and appeals at the Office of Student Conduct.
While avoiding an incident report might be more streamlined and give professors more disciplinary control, it undermines everything the academic dishonesty policy was created for.
Documenting each case of academic dishonesty a student commits is essential to enforcement.
Enforcement is the foundation for any set of rules, and enforcement is impossible when incident reporting is optional.
Although requiring each case to be reported would call for an exponentially larger amount of investigations and formal proceedings, it would establish a clear stance of how CMU deals with cheating.
In addition to ensuring that warnings actually function as a deterrent and promoting academic honesty, mandatory reporting paired with consistent enforcement would ultimately dissuade those who think cheating is the answer.