Emphasizing academic integrity, and enforcing academic integrity rules, is integral to a university education. Fostering a “climate of integrity” on campus supports Goal 2.3 of Michigan Tech’s Strategic plan: to promote and encourage student engagement and civic responsibility, and produce graduates with strong leadership capabilities.
Recent events on other campuses have made this report timely. In the past year, “cheating scandals” have been uncovered at Ohio University, Duke University and the Air Force Academy. The latter two institutions have long-standing honor codes. In a recent NPR interview, Donald McCabe of Rutgers University reviewed survey data from 5,300 students at 54 universities, and reported that “consistently business students and occasionally engineering students rise to the top” in terms of self-reported cheating. He believes that the data understates what is really going on. (Weekend Edition Sunday, May 6, 2007).
The current academic integrity policy was adopted by the University Senate and approved by the President in April 2006. The first formal academic integrity policy was drafted in 1994 and approved by the Senate and President in Fall 1995. The academic integrity policy is intended to (1) encourage faculty to report all suspected incidents of academic dishonesty to the Dean of Students Office; (2) hold students accountable for violations of the policy; and (3) provide students with due process rights. The policy also encourages students to report incidents of academic integrity; however, the University does not have an official “honor code” mandating students to report on other students.
II. Types of Cases
The academic integrity policy addresses the following conduct: plagiarism, cheating, fabrication and facilitating academic dishonesty. These categories occasionally overlap, and no one category is considered to be a more serious violation of the policy than another.
- Plagiarism—The classic plagiarism case is copying a term paper (from another student, cutting and pasting from a web site, or purchasing a term paper). However, as a technological university, Michigan Tech’s plagiarism cases most frequently relate to copying computer code. Unfortunately, the Michigan Tech student community has ready access to so-called “scoop” – a previous paper, exam or project written or completed by another student and passed on to other students. In today’s technological world, “scoop” is often emailed or shared via jump drives.
- Cheating—This is defined as using an unauthorized study aid, such as a “cheat sheet” in an exam, looking at another student’s exam, sharing answers via email or cell phone during an exam, or discussing an out of class assignment with another student without authorization of the professor (“unauthorized collaboration.”) A typical situation in the latter category is working on an “individual” assignment using information obtained from another student. Cheating also includes submitting an academic exercise completed for one class in another class, without the explicit approval of both instructors.
- Fabrication—Submitting falsified lab data is fabrication. Another example is changing an answer on a returned assignment and submitting it for regrading.
- Facilitating academic dishonesty—This is defined as “knowingly” helping another student cheat, plagiarize or fabricate. Scenarios often involve friends, roommates, or family members who have previously taken a course and provide a student with completed assignments or exams (“scoop”).
Consistent with the University’s strategic plan, the Office of Student Judicial Affairs (OSJA) has engaged in multi-pronged education and prevention programs including: training all new faculty and GTAs on academic integrity issues; visiting departments and classrooms to raise awareness; creating an informative brochure on academic integrity issues and an on-line reporting site for faculty; providing Perspectives faculty with academic integrity training materials for first year students; working with Orientation to create a more meaningful program on academic integrity; and creating a 12 minute training video for students available on-line. (See "Academic Integrity at Michigan Tech: What Students Need to Know".)
In addition, a task force was formed by the OSJA (Associate Director Rob Bishop) to increase communication, strengthen collaboration and improve coordination on initiatives promoting diversity, integrity and justice. A group of faculty, staff and students meet on a monthly basis to discuss programs, resources and/or concerns in their departments addressing these areas. This ties in with a restorative justice initiative in the OSJA, but also with academic integrity issues.
IV. Hearing Procedures
As a state university, Michigan Tech must provide due process to students charged with academic integrity violations. This process is spelled out in the academic integrity policy and procedures. When the Dean of Students office receives a report of suspected academic integrity, it is referred to the OSJA. The report is reviewed with the submitting faculty member by a hearing officer (the Director or Associate Director of the OSJA.) An initial conference letter is sent to the student. At the initial conference, the hearing officer explains the procedures and reviews the evidence with the student. Often an academic integrity report involves two or more students. In that case, the hearing officer meets with all students separately but also may meet with the group during the initial conference.
Often the facts are not disputed, and a student agrees to an immediate administrative hearing with the hearing officer. On other occasions, students request additional time to prepare and the administrative hearing is scheduled at a later time with a hearing officer. Students may also have the case heard by a panel of the Academic Integrity Committee, which consists of trained faculty, staff and students. Any student found responsible may file an appeal with the Dean of Students.
|Reported Incidents 2001-2006|
|Total Incidents Referred||Not Responsible||Committees|
(since 2003 – no prior records)
Sanctions range from an “academic integrity warning,” “academic integrity censure,” “grade reduction in the course by one letter grade,” “F* - failure by reason of academic dishonesty,” “suspension” and “expulsion.”
From 2001-02 to 2005-06, a total of 261 male students and 69 female students were charged.
Submitted by Patricia A. Gotschalk, Director, Office of Student Judicial Affairs
Issues and Recommendations
Michigan Tech has never undertaken a formal survey or assessment process to determine awareness and attitudes of students and faculty about academic integrity. This information could help guide a more informed plan for addressing academic integrity issues.
Work with the Student Affairs Assessment Committee to schedule a survey/assessment and benchmarking in 2007-08. The Center for Academic Integrity has created a survey instrument that can be administered on-line and the CAI will prepare a customized confidential report.
Honor Code or Honor Pledge
Although the current academic integrity policy includes a statement that students should report incidents of academic dishonesty of which they are aware, as a practical matter few if any reports are made by students.
Beginning in Fall 2007, develop student awareness of the academic integrity policy and student responsibilities during Orientation. Use information from the survey/assessment to create a plan for instituting an honor code or honor pledge, in collaboration with students and faculty.
Academic Integrity Policy Sanctions—Grades
Under Michigan Tech’s current policy, the hearing officer/hearing committee can determine that a student’s sanction will be a “grade reduction” or “F*” in the course. As a matter of courtesy, but not explicitly written in the procedures, the hearing officer/committee discusses the sanction with the faculty before it is formally sent to the student, and on occasion a faculty member has disagreed with the recommended grade sanction (either finding it too strict or too lenient, depending on the philosophy of the faculty member.) There is also a consistency issue between departments and courses as to whether similar behavior (e.g., plagiarism) warrants an F* or a warning. Some universities take the position that faculty should retain control over student grades in academic integrity cases, and the role of the hearing officer/committee is to determine responsibility and issue administrative sanctions such as warning, probation, suspension and expulsion. The grade is then assigned by faculty after the hearing process and administrative sanction. If a student disagrees with the grade, the usual grade appeal process would be followed through the department.
The pros and cons of this option can be explored through a survey/assessment process, and if the option attracts interest, it can be recommended to the University Senate as revision to the current policy.
Academic Integrity Policy Sanctions—No Permanent Record
Under the current policy, the “*”, meaning failure by reason of academic dishonesty, will appear on the transcript only if the student fails to complete an educational condition. Some faculty have requested a sanction where the finding of academic dishonesty is permanently maintained on the transcript, rather than solely in the disciplinary record that can only be accessed with a student’s permission under FERPA. These disciplinary records are destroyed 2 years after graduation. On the other side of this issue is the possibility of developing a procedure where students can petition to expunge academic dishonesty records prior to the document destruction date.
The pros and cons of these options can be explored through a survey/assessment process, and if either option attracts interest, it can be recommended to the University Senate as revision to the current policy.
Clear Language on Syllabi and Course Policies
The level of permissible collaboration/outside help is a key issue. Faculty should be explicit about collaboration rules. The OSJA can assist with examples of clear language and problematic language.
The OSJA should collaborate with the Center for Teaching and Learning to create an Academic Integrity web site with recommended syllabus language and other academic integrity resources. A mini grant of $500 was obtained to complete this project in Summer 2007.
Serious cases of academic integrity have resulted from the availability of “scoop” files. Technology has made scoop easy and tempting to use. The value of “scoop” is greatly reduced or eliminated if assignments and tests are rewritten from semester to semester.
The OSJA and Center for Teaching and Learning should work with the Provost, Deans and Department Chairs to raise awareness of this issue and preferably develop incentives for faculty to rewrite assignments and tests.
A faculty member has requested that we consider adding the following definition of self-plagiarism to the definitions of academic dishonesty—this is currently covered under “cheating” with less language and explanation. The faculty member feels it should have a separate category.
Self-plagiarism is submitting (without the instructor's knowledge or approval) work you have produced for another class (from either the current or some previous semester) in response to an assignment for the class in question. The ability to cross-fertilize ideas among various classes is an essential academic skill. However, if you want to submit the same work in two classes during the same term, you need to discuss this in advance with both instructors. If you want to submit, in some modified form, work produced for a previous course in responding to an assignment for a current course, you need to discuss the propriety of doing so with the instructor of the current course.