Academic dishonesty again

OK, commenters, you win. My proposal for extending the punishment for academic dishonesty is probably too draconian fascist much like walking the plank strict. Even if I fixed the “five-game suspension” problem for athletes, I admit most students caught in academic dishonesty aren’t cold-blooded cheaters but basically good people who are naive to the ways of college and have gotten themselves talked into thinking that cheating is acceptable if one can sort of morally justify it. And as such, they don’t need the full force of the sanctions that I proposed to get the lesson across.

But at least at my college, the professor reserves the right to suggest withholding parts of the standard penalty for academic dishonesty. While I always report academic dishonesty to the Dean, and while I have done so at least once a semester ever since I started working here, in fact I have almost never recommended the full punishment. So even if the range of punishments allowed were expanded drastically, like I proposed, a professor could hold back whatever portions s/he chose while retaining the right to drop a bomb on somebody who was violating academic honesty blatantly and without remorse. So I’m not sure why raising the upper end of what punishment can be meted out should be such a bad thing.

But regardless, I still think that punishing academic dishonesty at the level of grades only is barking up the wrong tree. Students get into academic dishonesty — cold-blooded or otherwise — by thinking that cheating is what’s best for their grade right now. It’s all about the grade. The punishment needs to communicate unambiguously that academic honesty is not all about the grade but about defending the basic foundation of college, which is mutual trust. You violate that trust, you dismember the community, and you should receive some temporary but substantive time-out from being a part of that community.

If it hurts or takes away something that’s important to the student, then so be it — cheating takes away something that is important to the college, and to me. 


Filed under Academic honesty, Education, Higher ed, Life in academia, Student culture

3 responses to “Academic dishonesty again

  1. Jami

    “in fact I have almost never recommended the full punishment”

    So now I’m confused… You want to add to the punishment, yet you have never even made use of the full punishment available to you? Maybe the college needs to adopt a no tolerance policy? What kind of reasons would you have to not give the full penalty?

  2. I’ve held back on the full punishment usually because the student(s) involved have convinced me that they understand the severity of what they’ve done and/or were honest and contrite in dealing with me once the dishonesty was uncovered. And as I mentioned, that’s been the case in all but a handful of cases. I try as much as I can to approach these cases as teaching moments.

    But I have actually recommended the full force in a few cases in the past. That handful involved students who lied to me repeatedly, changed their stories after they were caught, denied that what they did was wrong even while they admitted doing it, and so on. I remember the worst case was a guy I caught red-handed with cheat notes on a test, who broke down into tears when I caught him and begged me — literally — not to turn him in to the Dean….but then emailed me later to tell me that I was mistaken in thinking that those were cheat notes when in fact they were study guides he had tucked away just before the test started and said he was sorry that I misunderstood what he was doing. The Dean told him later that he was fortunate that TWO charges of dishonesty weren’t being levelled against him — one for cheating and then another for lying about cheating.

    In those cases a stronger approach has to be taken in order to learn the lesson. And I think instructors ought to have the option to suggest a range of penalties.

    And I want to stress that I have never let a real academic dishonesty case just go undealt-with, or dealt with under the table and without reporting it to the Dean. Our college handbook has specific guidelines for faculty to follow in these cases and I am in violation of the terms of my employment if I don’t report it.

  3. I really like the idea of taking away something besides grades. The question is though, can you find something like that for everyone?