Professor Jen Green has seen about 21 cases of academic dishonesty during her 12 years teaching at Central Michigan University.
That’s almost one case for every semester of every year the history professor has been at the university.
More recently, she’s seen two students turn in the same paper to two different classes. She’s also received papers reused from previous years and paragraphs ripped from Wikipedia.
CMU has no specific definition of academic dishonesty, but its policy lists behaviors that can be considered dishonest. Academically dishonest actions include cheating on examinations, plagiarism, fabricating information, submission of identical or similar assignments to two separate classes, misconduct in research and creative endeavors, using computer resources in acts of plagiarism or illegal activity and being complicit in another students violation of the policy.
Other violations do exist but are not specifically mentioned in the policy.
Green addresses the problem in the classroom and makes extensive efforts to teach her students how to cite sources, but she said talking about the problem in the classroom doesn’t lessen the chances for academic dishonesty to occur.
“It’s an individual choice students make,” Green said. “I can’t stop them from doing it.”
Green said the rate of cases she discovers stays roughly the same year to year, but statistics from the Student Conduct Office show a rising trend at CMU.
Forty-seven cases of academic dishonesty have been reported to the office since 2010. More than half of them, 26, were reported last academic year, compared to just three in 2010. Three cases have already been reported this semester.
Professors have a great deal of control over a student’s fate when academic dishonesty occurs. Professors, under the university’s academic integrity policy, are expected to discover violations of the policy and institute a conference between the professor and the student. No other party needs to attend, and the student is not required to respond.
If, after completing the process, the professor believes there is a case of academic dishonesty, the professor may require a revision of the work, enact a reduction in the student’s grade or give a warning, a written notice that the student has violated the Policy on Academic Integrity and that further violations might result in additional sanctions.
The professor is encouraged, but not required, to report the matter to the Office of Student Life.
If reported, the student will have a chance to appeal by submitting a written statement to the instructor and dean of the college within a specific time limit. As soon as is practical, the dean will convene a committee comprised of faculty and students to hear the appeal and to make a recommendation to the dean. The dean’s decision on the matter is final.
Director of Student Conduct Tom Idema said his office will usually only institute further penalties at the request of a professor. This usually includes a period of Disciplinary Probation and a fine. Suspension or expulsion is unlikely unless a history of academic dishonesty has been recorded.
Idema said it is crucial that professors report violations so a history can be established.
“If someone violated the Academic Integrity policy in the English department, and then did it again in the biology department, neither the English nor the biology (departments) would be aware of violations that occur in different departments,” Idema said.
Academic dishonesty appears to be found primarily within the lower level courses. Green said she finds the majority of her violations happen in her 100-level classes, while professor Kathleen Donohue, who teaches mostly graduate students and upperclassmen, said academic dishonesty is an issue she just doesn’t run across.
Green said the reason most students commit academic dishonesty is because they were strained for time.
“I think at least for me, if someone asks for an extension two days before it’s due, I’m likely to do it,” Green said. “I think a lot of (professors) would be reasonable. Problem is, students don’t think that way.”