1. Why do we care about academic dishonesty? Doesn’t it just hurt the person engaging in it?
Answer: Acts of academic dishonesty harm the entire academic enterprise of the College and possibly society as a whole. For instance:
a) Students who get away with cutting ethical corners in college may be more likely to cut ethical corners after college – especially if they can convince themselves it won’t hurt anyone or if people won’t really care. When we (faculty, students, and administrators) send strong messages that academic integrity matters and is worth pursuing, we help students develop the moral courage they will need when they face ethical decisions later.
b) If acts of academic dishonesty were to proliferate, the reputation attached to a Colby degree would be severely tarnished for all Colby students.
c) Many Colby students work extremely hard to learn course material and to do well in courses. An act of academic dishonesty is, in effect, saying to those students that their hard work isn’t worth it.
d) Many forms of academic dishonesty boil down to falsely claiming someone else’s work as one’s own. This devalues the work of the originator by diminishing their claim to originality.
e) At Colby, we pride ourselves on the close working relationships between faculty and students. These relationships are founded on mutual trust. In many instances, for example, professors will extend deadlines for students dealing with personal crises. Lying to a professor about a personal situation in an effort to get an extension harms the professor’s ability to trust other students claiming a personal crisis. Similarly, in many instances professors will devote extra time to helping a student write a paper; plagiarizing a paper makes it harder for a professor to trust that a student’s ideas are his or her own.
2. How can professors help promote a culture of academic integrity?
- Discuss academic integrity as a positive value. Encourage and enable students to do their best work. Show them how “best work” involves giving other people credit for their contributions.
- Let students know that you value honest work over high grades and that most employers and businesses do too.
- Structure your class to disincentivize cheating. Be clear about what academic honesty and dishonesty look like in your class, keeping in mind that other professors in other contexts may have different definitions (eg. on the permissibility of collaboration on homework, etc.) Frequently remind students of your availability to help them learn.
- Report academic negligence and academic dishonesty when you find them.
- Educate yourself about cheating in college (the books Cheating in College by McCabe et al. and Cheating Lessons by Lang are particularly recommended.)
3. Why do we assign sanctions for academic dishonesty?
Answer: There are three main reasons:
a) The sanction and the process of leading up to the sanction are an explicit opportunity for a student to make a personal ethical transformation. The sanction empowers the student to confront their action and choose to complete the rest of their academic work honestly.
b) The sanction is the harm to the community made visible. Although academic dishonesty negatively affects the entire academic enterprise, those engaging in dishonest practices may rationalize them as “victimless crimes.” The sanction and sanctioning process enables the student to confront the harm they have done to the community.
c) The sanction and sanctioning process enable the College to track repeat offenders. Although certain acts of academic dishonesty, in certain circumstances, are less severe than others, repeat engagement is a very serious matter and can result in suspension or expulsion from the College. We firmly believe that most Colby students are honest most of the time, but it is important that those who are not, be given the opportunity to rethink their place in the academic enterprise.
4. What is the difference between academic negligence and academic dishonesty? How do I tell the difference?
Answer: See this page.
5. Why do we keep a record of a dishonesty finding in a student’s file for 6 years past graduation?
Answer: The record keeping for a finding of academic dishonesty is treated the same as the record keeping for all other disciplinary infractions. Placing the record in the student file allows us to detect repeat offenders and enables the College to give an honest response to law and medical schools who request information concerning any finding of dishonesty against a student applying to the school. The record is destroyed 6 years after graduation in keeping with the policy concerning all other disciplinary infractions.
6. Does a finding of academic dishonesty ruin a student’s chance of getting into law school or med school?
Answer: Most likely not. Law schools and medical schools are most interested in whether or not the student has emerged from the experience with a greater commitment to academic integrity. The Dean of Students office and the Pre-law and Pre-med advisors are available to work with students on how to learn from the experience, move on to a renewed commitment to honest academic work, and how to talk about that transformation when they self-disclose the finding to graduate schools. Of course, some acts of academic dishonesty are so egregious that a student’s purported academic work should not be considered as evidence that the person would make a good lawyer or doctor. A single, relatively minor, instance of academic dishonesty will, however, likely not prevent a student from getting into medical school or law school, provided the student has learned from the experience and has performed all other academic work with a commitment to integrity.
7. Why are academic review boards constituted the way they are?
Answer: For each reported case of academic dishonesty, an academic review board is formed to investigate and assign a sanction, if appropriate. Academic review boards consist of the professor bringing the report; the Academic Integrity Coordinator; another faculty member; a student; and the Disciplinary Officer from the Dean of Students Office as a non-voting member.
The professor bringing the report is a member of the review board since they are the one with primary responsibility for the class. They are the ones to determine the standards for academic dishonesty in the class (with the expectation that they clearly communicate them to the class.) They provide needed disciplinary expertise and understanding of the classroom dynamic. Acts of academic dishonesty are an offense against the College and the professor bringing the charge is the immediate representative of the College in the classroom. The professor may, however, not to participate in any part of the proceedings.
A student is on the review board as a representative of the student body, who are the ones most directly harmed by acts of academic dishonesty. Students bear the greatest responsibility for the development and maintenance of a culture of academic integrity.
The Academic Integrity Coordinator and the other professor are on the review board to ensure fairness of process and sanctioning and to provide additional insight and oversight of reports of academic dishonesty.
The Dean of Students disciplinary officer is on the board as a consultant regarding the appropriateness and implementation of sanctions and to help students accused of academic dishonesty navigate the process and their subsequent academic career.
8. What are typical sanctions for acts of academic dishonesty?
Sanctions take into account the particulars of each case and the professor bringing the report is encouraged to suggest an appropriate sanction. The following, however, are typical baselines for first-time offenses. For a relatively minor offense such as copying a homework assignment or a small amount of plagiarism, the baseline sanction is failing the assignment and, potentially, a further reduction of course grade. For major offenses, such as cheating on an exam or major project, wholesale plagiarism, or lying to the professor in the context of the course, the baseline sanction is to fail the course. The baseline sanction for egregious dishonesty, such as purchasing a paper online, posting take-home exam questions to internet fora, paying someone else to complete a project, theft of academic materials from a professor is immediate suspension or expulsion.
Second offenses will typically result in suspension.
9. How do I report a case of academic dishonesty?
Answer: If you are a faculty member teaching the class where the dishonesty seems to have occurred, you can report it by using the link next to the student’s name in your course roster on MyColby. See this page for more information. For any other academic dishonesty situation, please email the Academic Integrity Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you are student who has observed academic dishonesty, you are encouraged to talk with your professor or the Academic Integrity Coordinator.
10. What are the sanctions for academic dishonesty?
Answer: In general, sanctions range from failure on an assignment, to failure in the course, to suspension or expulsion. Cheating on a low-stakes assignment or a small amount of plagiarism will generally result in receiving a “0” on the assignment plus an additional grade reduction in the course. Cheating on a major project or exam will generally result in automatically failing the course. Students found responsible for academic dishonesty a second time are almost always suspended. Lying to the academic review board investigating a case of dishonesty will generally result in additional penalties, possibly including suspension. Often sanctions will include an additional educational or restorative justice component. These guidelines are intended to give an idea of the range and type of sanctions; the sanctions applied in any particular case depend heavily on the details of that case.
11. How many students are found responsible for academic dishonesty and academic negligence each year?
Answer: Here is some data from the past few years. Almost all students accused of academic dishonesty accept responsibility, though usually one or two each semester do not. Those students may or may not be found responsible for academic dishonesty by the academic review board, depending on the details of the case. The process and sanctions are designed so that in almost all cases, students are able to move forward productively and honestly with their academics at Colby.
In 2015-16, 16 students were found responsible for academic dishonesty and there were 28 cases of academic negligence.
In 2016-17, 17 students were found responsible for academic dishonesty and there were 23 cases of academic negligence.
12. What do students have to do when they are reported for academic negligence?
Answer: When reporting a student for academic negligence, a professor needs to select “conversation required” or “further education required.” If “conversation required” is selected, the student just needs to talk with the professor. If “further education required” is selected, the student needs to complete this tutorial and show the professor the certificate verifying completion.
13. How do cases of academic dishonesty affect my teaching evaluations?
There is probably no single answer to this question which applies to situations. At the conclusion of a case where a student was found responsible for academic dishonesty, the Academic Integrity Coordinator can provide a letter stating that there was a case of academic dishonesty which may or may not have affected course evaluations.
Students are often aware if there is a culture of academic dishonesty. Not confronting academic dishonesty when you know it exists can also have a negative impact on course evaluations.