U profs report cheating increase

Reported cases of academic dishonesty increased 44 percent in just one year.

by Danielle Nordine

Despite constant reminders each semester of the University of MinnesotaâÄôs scholastic dishonesty policy, reports of cheating and plagiarism are on the rise. Reported instances of scholastic dishonesty among University students rose more than 44 percent during the 2008-09 academic year, according to the latest data available from the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity. The Institute of Technology had the highest percentage of reported incidents, and the rate has tripled every academic year since 2006-07. The college reported 58 cases last year. The College of Biological Sciences saw a slight decrease in reported cases, although they still stand as the college with the second-highest percentage of reports, with 12 violations. The increase within IT is likely due to an emphasis within the college on reporting scholastic dishonesty violations, said Paul Strykowski, associate dean for undergraduate programs at the Institute of Technology. Traditionally, the University hasnâÄôt diligently reported scholastic dishonesty, he said, but IT has recently been putting forth an increased effort. No college reported incidents in more than 1 percent of their students, but the actual number of offenses is likely much higher, said Sharon Dzik of the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity. âÄúA lot of times faculty try to handle the situation themselves,âÄù she said. âÄúBut the policy is that theyâÄôre supposed to report it.âÄù The availability of online resources such as solution manuals has contributed to more reports of plagiarism, Strykowski said. But the new resources have also created a gray area between getting help on an assignment and cheating. âÄúAs an instructor, I have noticed that students simply have solutions to homework problems that they would never have in the past,âÄù Strykowski said. âÄúBut one problem is that weâÄôre not always super clear about what we mean is academic dishonesty.âÄù The Board of Regents defines scholastic dishonesty as: âÄúPlagiarizing; cheating on assignments or examinations; engaging in unauthorized collaboration on academic work; taking, acquiring or using test materials without faculty permission.âÄù Last year, 163 cases of scholastic dishonesty were reported to the University, 148 of which were undergraduate violations. More than half the cases were instances of plagiarism, according to Dzik. About 75 percent of college students admit to cheating at least once in their college careers, according to national surveys by the Center for Academic Integrity, which is based at Clemson University in South Carolina. âÄúOur researchers have been running this survey for almost 20 years, and the results have remained largely unchanged,âÄù said the centerâÄôs director, Teresa Fishman. âÄúItâÄôs kind of sad, actually.âÄù Fishman said the number of reported cases at colleges is much lower than actual occurrences. âÄúFaculty will admit it,âÄù she said. âÄúThey catch some, but thereâÄôs no way that most of the students that admit to cheating are being caught.âÄù Faculty members have the freedom to determine the punishment for a student who has violated academic integrity, and punishment can range from having to redo the assignment to failing the course, Dzik said. Faculty members are required to meet with students about the situation, and after they file a report with the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity, students have the chance to get more information about the claim and fight it if necessary. âÄúWeâÄôve learned that reporting violations is pretty important,âÄù Strykowski said. âÄúIt allows the student access to resources to fight the charge if they disagree.âÄù Verified reports generally go in a file held at the University for seven years but can only be accessed by entities such as graduate schools or employers if the student grants permission, because of privacy laws, Dzik said. The professional schools, including the College of Pharmacy, Law School and Medical School, handle their instances of scholastic dishonesty internally with honor councils usually composed of students in the school. This system fosters peer accountability, said Joe Kristoff, a third-year at the College of Pharmacy and co-chair of the College of Pharmacy Honor Council. âÄúWeâÄôre a close-knit community,âÄù he said. âÄúThese are your colleagues youâÄôre dealing with.âÄù The Honor Council requires faculty to submit a report of the instance, and if enough evidence is found the case will go to a formal review where sanctions will be made by the council if necessary, Kristoff said. Internal councils keep files of the cases as well, but these are also private. Dzik said academic integrity is a priority for the University, and an increase in reports can be interpreted as a good thing. âÄúIt means that people are out there holding others accountable,âÄù she said.