Getting tough on cheaters

My college’s official policy on academic dishonesty (cheating, plagiarism, and the like) goes as follows. When a student is “convicted” of academic dishonesty on a course assignment and it is their first offense, then:

  • The student receives an automatic “0” on the assignment.
  • The student’s final letter grade in the course is reduced by one full letter. (An earned B- becomes a C-, etc.)

And should the student ever commit academic dishonesty a second time, the student is expelled.

This policy is pretty typical of a lot of colleges. But I am beginning to think it doesn’t go far enough. Here’s what I am thinking ought to happen to a student caught in academic dishonesty:

  • The student gets a grade of “0” on the assignment and a reduction of one letter on the final grade, as is currently the case.
  • The student is barred for one year from holding any officer position in any official college organization. If the student currently holds such a position, the student is to be removed from that position immediately.
  • The student is barred from membership in the Student Congress and any other form of student government for one year.
  • The student is barred for one year from being an admissions counselor, campus tour guide, or any other function in which they represent the college to the general public.
  • If the student is an athlete, the student is given a five-game suspension.
  • If the student is a member of a fraternity or sorority, then the student is banned from the fraternity or sorority for one full semester except for the use of study tables.

All students take their studies with varying degrees of seriousness at any given time, but when a student commits plagiarism or cheats, or deliberately allows it to happen, I think the gloves are off, and colleges need to start hitting these people where they live.

Additions? Comments? Accusations of draconianism?


Filed under Education, Life in academia, Student culture, Teaching

10 responses to “Getting tough on cheaters

  1. Jami

    I have to say your ideas are a bit harsh… The point of the first penalty is to give them a warning, and I would think that the threat of expulsion is enough for any serious student to not do it again. And isnt the point of college to mature and gain experience on your own, thus mistakes are going to be made?

    Had I had to endure the actual punishment I would have flet fully punished and ridiculed, not to mention my grades could have suffered tremendously, and I would have had stop cheating. However, had I had to endure your ideas, I think I may have just given up on college, or maybe even life completely. You’ve got to punish the student, not take away every single thing that might give them some comfort. Not to mention you’re taking away things that the student would put on their resume in the future. This would be like getting your very first speeding ticket and being taken to jail, having your kids taken away, being fined, and being fired from your job. Yes, I know that is exaggerating, but that’s my point.

  2. Jami – What if there were no penalties on grades, but only the additional stuff I proposed in the article? Do you think students would be less inclined to cheat if you punished them on that level and not on the academic level? Just curious; I don’t think I’d ever not want to dock a student’s grade for this kind of thing.

  3. jon

    You are, of course, assuming that FC actually enforces its published policy — which in my experience (admittedly, before your time: you were hired my last year there) simply was not the case. And this also assumes that ALL faculty reports cases to the VPAA’s office, which in my own FC experience, is also and extremely dangerous assumption. Your proposal would actually diminish the small percentage of faculty who report plagiarism and academic dishonesty cases.

    former FC faculty

  4. So perhaps the answer is not tougher policies but more consistent enforcement. Just like with my kids! I don’t need to put my 4-year old in longer and longer timeouts; I just need her to believe that I mean what I say when I lay down a rule. (And I also end up needing fewer rules.)

    Which raises some followup questions: (1) Why don’t faculty report AD cases to the VPAA’s office?; (2) Why doesn’t a college enforce its stated policies?; and (2) What will it take to get more consistent reporting and enforcement?

  5. At my college, the teachers may determine what level of accountability is appropriate. The handbook says that a student may be dismissed from school, but I don’t personally know of anyone who has been dismissed from school.

    I have changed my own academic dishonesty policy to a zero on the assignment and if there is a second instance, they fail my class. Another adjunct at my school has an immediate failure in the class for academic dishonesty. Some don’t do anything.

    I think I agree with Jon that some people would be less likely to report. And having been to a college where I was “gently pressured” to improve a sports student’s grade, I doubt you could get a five game suspension. In addition, I also feel that it is completely unfair to give the sports folks a five game suspension, while other people have a full semester or full year “suspension.”

  6. The 5-game suspension is a terrible idea simply because all games aren’t equal. 5 games in a college baseball season makes up a far smaller percentage of total activity than 5 games in college football.

    If they’re going to mandate athletic suspensions, they should do it using a percentage of the season’s games or, better yet, a fixed period of time.

    As soon as I read “five-game,” I thought, “Have these people ever played or watched sports in their lives?” It’s a ridiculous rule – unless you really *are* trying to crack down on the footballers and give everyone else a comparatively lighter sentence.

  7. Not to give a possibly lame defense of myself, but the “five game” thing came because I was up late and had the whole article as a passing thought while getting in to bed, and I just needed to get a basic idea down quickly. Since I’ve now gotten two unambiguously negative comments on the five-game suspension idea, let me take the time to flesh it out as it was meant to be.

    Of course “five games” can’t be a real rule — that’s almost half of a typical college football schedule but a much smaller fraction of a baseball schedule. The idea I am trying to convey is that athletes have to undergo some kind of sport-appropriate benching period. This is already standard policy in D-I schools in which students can undergo “academic suspensions” for a limited period of games.

    The overall concept of what I am saying here is that students who plagiarize or cheat should have penalties that cut across the entire spectrum of their participation in the campus community — since academic dishonesty cuts at the heart of the very fabric of that community at the mutual trust upon which education ultimately is built. Whatever that looks like for athletes, I think athletic participation ought to be affected somehow.

    So, everybody, don’t take the five-game suspension too literally here.

  8. Jami

    To answer your question… To take away the grade penalty and do only the social penalties… That’s even worse. You arent punishing the actual act, you are just punishing the person.
    Also, you’re making the punishment so much more subjective by adding all of these other things. What if one person is involved in every one of those activities, another is only involved in one, and some one else is not involved in anything. Now you’ve got three different people getting three different punishments. There are just too many variables there.

  9. Pingback: Academic dishonesty again « Casting Out Nines

  10. Weighing in a bit late, but thoughtful nonetheless.

    Except for the stated 5 game translation across sports, I have no problem with anything. In fact, I think you’re being too nice by not kicking them out of Greek organizations 100%.

    The only other thing I have an issue with is how this would translate to students who have no social life (because we all know they exist). There doesn’t seem to be any extra punishment for them.