The University Record, April 18, 1994

Education a primary tool in discouraging cheating

By Mary Jo Frank

Education and changing the way cheating cases are investigated and adjudicated are the best ways to discourage students from cheating, according to an LS&A faculty-student committee.

Presenting the LS&A Joint Faculty-Student Policy Committee’s report at last Monday’s LS&A faculty meeting, David Schoem, committee chair, asked the faculty for feedback on its report. If implemented, some of the recommendations would require changes in the College’s Faculty Code.

Student cheating is a problem at the U-M, as it is at colleges and universities across the nation, the committee reports. According to nationwide surveys of college students, between 40 percent and 90 percent of the general student population admit to some form of academic cheating.

The committee acknowledged that this range may not reflect the situation at the U-M, but noted that it has received testimony indicating that cheating is widespread at the U-M, and that many students do not believe cheating to be as serious an infraction as lying or shoplifting.

Adding to the problem is the fact that few faculty use LS&A’s academic judiciary when they discover students cheating. The committee notes that “even if we are to assume that our students fall near or below the lowest estimates of cheating nationwide, the 40–50 cases annually that are brought before the judiciary are insignificant compared to the level of cheating we believe is taking place in LS&A courses. Faculty either ignore cheating or handle cheating cases on their own without the benefit and protection of due process, both for themselves and for students, that would ensure fair and impartial hearing and adjudication.”

For the College to provide an optimal educational environment and develop leaders, academic dishonesty cannot be tolerated, the committee says. The committee rejected the idea of establishing a rigid honor code.

The committee recommends that the College:

  • Prepare and distribute to all faculty and students a “Standards of Academic Integrity” pamphlet.

  • Require students to sign a “Commitment to Academic Integrity” statement as part of the undergraduate admissions process.

  • Distribute to faculty, teaching assistants and students in large-enrollment introductory courses a one-page synopsis of the “Standards” pamphlet.

  • Distribute a similar one-page synopsis of the “Standards” pamphlet to students when they declare their concentration.

  • Include discussion of academic integrity issues as part of orientation.

  • Encourage discussion of standards of academic integrity among faculty at appropriate departmental meetings and among teaching assistants as part of their training.

    The committee recommends that the College define cheating and plagiarism and encourage faculty to:

  • Include information in their syllabi about their specific requirements concerning acknowledgment of collaboration and a statement of integrity in exams.

  • Have students acknowledge in writing the degree of collaboration in writing assignments and computer work.

    The committee also recommends that LS&A:

  • Create a case investigator position to relieve faculty of the responsibility of investigating and prosecuting cheating cases.

  • Include a less formal administrative hearing as an alternative step within the judiciary process.

  • Consult LS&A Student Government for student representatives on the judiciary to encourage broader representation.

  • Assign one person to determine sanctions for formal judiciary hearings to establish consistency in penalties.