Guide For Managing Academic Dishonesty
NOTE: This guide is not a comprehensive statement of University policies and procedures regarding academic dishonesty. The University’s expectation for community behavior is outlines in the Bronc Honor Code and the official policies are stated in the Handbook of Operating Procedures 5.5.2.
Necessity for Adhering to Disciplinary Policies/Procedures
An allegation of academic dishonesty is an assertion that a person has violated a rule. Investigating whether or not such an assertion is true is one role of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. It cannot be assumed, even when the evidence is compelling, that a student has committed an act of academic dishonesty.
The Regents’ Rules and Regulations adopted by the UT System Board of Regents include provisions relating to the standards of conduct expected of students at the component institutions of the UT System. Each component institution is also authorized to enact additional rules and regulations related to student conduct and disciplinary procedures consistent with Regents’ Rules and Regulations. UTPA has promulgated and adopted a Student Disciplinary Hearing and Appeals procedure contained in the Faculty and administrators involved in the disciplinary process are expected to abide by the standards articulated in the Regents’ Rules and Regulations as well as the Handbook of Operating Procedures.
Students who fail to conform to the established standards of conduct are subject to one or more of the disciplinary sanctions listed in the Regents’ Rules and Regulations or UTPA’s Handbook of Operating Procedures. The courts have held that a disciplinary sanction may not be imposed upon a student for engaging in prohibited conduct unless the student has been offered an opportunity for a hearing that conforms to certain minimal procedural due process standards. The Regents’ Rules and Regulations have been drafted to establish disciplinary hearing procedures that conform to the procedural due process requirements of the courts. UTPA adheres to those procedures in student disciplinary matters.
One goal of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities is to arrive at the appropriate outcome in a manner that is beyond reproach. This, of course, requires a collaborative effort between all of us at the University who place a high value on academic integrity. Adhering to official protocols, guards against a shift in the focus from the substantive evidence to possible procedural errors by the University. Failure to afford a student his or her due process rights as part of the disciplinary process can result in a number of legal repercussions. It is, therefore, essential to follow established procedures even if thought to be unnecessary and burdensome.
The Rights of the Student
Constitutional due process rights require that a student charged with an act of academic dishonesty has the right to know what evidence supports the charge, the right to present information on their behalf, and the right of appeal. A student may accept administrative disposition by waiving his or her right to a hearing. Under any circumstance, however, a student has the right to appeal a sanction assessed by the Dean of Students or the decision of a hearing officer by timely written notice to the UTPA President.
The Student’s Discipline Records
Scholastic dishonesty records are kept separate from academic (transcript) records and are retained by the Office of the Dean of Students. Although classified as confidential, disciplinary records (including academic dishonesty records) may be released to persons outside the University only with the consent of the student or in response to a court order. One advantage of maintaining the records in a central location is to monitor incidents of repeated violations of scholastic regulations by the same student. Known multiple offenses generally result in more serious consequences.
The Responsibility of Faculty
Academic integrity in academic exercises is a shared responsibility of both faculty and students, although faculty members are called upon to play a greater role in that process. Many students at the University, however, are increasingly concerned about academic dishonesty among their classmates and in their classes. Investigating allegations of academic dishonesty and, if warranted, assessing a sanction is a responsibility of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities in collaboration with the faculty. An academic judgment relating to whether a student has or has not properly completed a quality academic exercise as assigned is the responsibility of the faculty.
- When there is reason to believe that an act of academic dishonesty has occurred, the faculty member should gather all pertinent evidence, such as tests, reports, computer programs and other academic assignments, and identify any possible witnesses. Note: During an exam, the faculty member should remove any unauthorized materials and/or, if applicable, discretely ask the student to move to another desk. The student, however must be allowed to complete the exam. Remember: An allegation of dishonesty does not mean one is responsible for dishonesty.
- In instances of clear evidence of academic dishonesty, the matter should be referred directly to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities via BroncsCare Report It.
- If the evidence of academic dishonesty is ambiguous, the faculty member certainly may confer with the student(s) involved for the purpose of clarifying the circumstances of the alleged violation. After conferring with the student, if warranted, the faculty member may refer the allegation to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.
- To complete the online report, attach relevant documents (cheat sheets, plagiarized materials, computer discs, programs, plagiarism detection program print-outs or other supporting evidence) and the course syllabus to the form.
- Upon receipt of the completed referral form, the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities will conduct an investigation of the alleged infraction. The investigation will include at a minimum, a review of all evidentiary documentation received and an interview with the student. The investigation period varies in duration, depending upon the responsiveness of the student and the quality of the supporting documentation received with the referral.
- During the investigation period and continuing through completion of the due process requirements, the student must be allowed to attend all classes and complete all assignments. If final grades become due prior to resolution of the charge, an incomplete on the grade report should be submitted to the Registrar for the student.
- All information concerning academic dishonesty allegations and dispositions is strictly confidential and should be treated accordingly and restricted solely between the faculty member and the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Casual conversations regarding specific academic dishonesty allegations should be avoided.
- Sanction assessment for acts of academic dishonesty remains the responsibility of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities in collaboration with the faculty. Faculty members may make additional recommendations if in their judgment there are unusual or mitigating or extenuating circumstances. Examples include:
- Retaking the examination or test or redoing the paper or project.
- No credit, or reduced credit for the paper, assignment, or exam in question.
- Removal from the course with a grade 'F' if the term is not yet completed.
- Failing grade for the course.
Responsibilities of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities
If, after investigation, the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities has determined that the student violated the Student Code of Conduct or the Regents’ Rules and Regulations, the student may choose to resolve the matter administratively by waiving his or her due process right to a hearing (Administrative Disposition), or may choose to dispute the allegation at a formal due process hearing.
The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities will investigate the allegation, review the student’s prior disciplinary record, consider the sanction recommended by the faculty member and assess a sanction that is appropriate to the circumstances yet consistent with sanctions for similar acts of academic dishonesty. In a course in which a failing grade has been assessed for academic dishonesty, the student will not be allowed to withdraw as a way of preventing the grade from being entered on their academic record. Student Rights and Responsibilities will inform the student and the faculty member of the decision.
If a hearing is conducted, Student Rights and Responsibilities prepares for the hearing. If the accused student is represented by an attorney, then the University is represented by an attorney from the Office of General Counsel of the UT System or the University’s Chief Legal Officer. The time required of the instructor or faculty member varies depending upon the details and complexity of the facts and supporting evidence. The hearing officer—a faculty or staff member appointed by the President to hear discipline cases—determines if the student violated University rules and, if so, assesses an appropriate sanction.
Whether the matter is resolved administratively or through a formal hearing, the student may appeal to the President.
Examples of Academic Dishonesty
Scholastic dishonesty includes but is not limited to cheating, plagiarism, collusion, facilitating academic dishonesty, fabrication, failure to contribute to a collaborative project and sabotage. Some of the ways students may engage in academic dishonesty are:
- Changing a graded paper and requesting that it be graded again.
- Citing false references or findings in research or other academic exercises.
- Concealing notes on hands, caps, shoes, in pockets or the back of beverage bottle labels.
- Consulting assignment solutions posted on websites of previous course offerings.
- Coughing and/or using visual or auditory signals in a test.
- Destroying or removing library materials to gain an academic advantage.
- Downloading text from the Internet or other sources without proper attribution.
- Encircling two adjacent answers and claiming to have had the correct answer.
- Exchanging exams so that neighbors have identical test forms.
- Fabricating data for lab assignments.
- Failing to turn in a test or assignment and later suggesting the faculty member lost the item.
- Having a substitute take a test and providing falsified identification for the substitute.
- Marking an answer sheet to enable another to see the answer.
- Obtaining copies of an exam in advance.
- Passing information from an earlier class to a later class.
- Recording two answers, one on the test form, one on the answer sheet.
- Signing a roll sheet for someone who is not in attendance.
- Submitting a substantial portion of the same academic work more than once without written authorization from the instructor.
- Submitting a paper written by someone else.
- Submitting computer programs written by another person.
- Stealing an exam for someone in another section or for placement in a test file.
- Stealing another student’s graded test and affixing one’s own name on it.
- Taking another student’s computer assignment printout from a computer lab.
- Transferring a computer file from one person’s account to another.
- Transmitting posted answers for an exam to a student in a testing area via electronic device.
- Unauthorized collaborating with another person in preparing academic exercises.
- Using an electronic device to store test information or to send or receive answers for a test.
- Writing in blue books prior to an examination.
- Writing information on blackboards, desks or keeping notes on the floor.
Proactive Strategies for Faculty
Acts of academic dishonesty may occur in lab experiments, on homework, computer programming assignments, general writing and research papers, among others. The following list contains ideas and suggestions that a faculty member might consider as tools for developing a proactive strategy to address the academic dishonesty issue.
- Enforce silence during the examination period.
- Prohibit the use of cell phones during examination times.
- Require proctors to remain in the testing room throughout the examination period.
- Use a consistent method of grading papers to which you strictly adhere. For example, use a system for marking unanswered questions so that students may not easily fill in or alter answers later and submit them for re-grading.
- Require students to remove caps and hats during the testing period.
- Require students to bring blue books at the beginning of the semester; distribute them yourself at test time.
- Forbid textbooks in the testing room.
- Separate students or assign seats.
- Distribute different test forms. Informing students of this practice is optional.
- Check photo identification against the photo roster and the person sitting for an exam.
- Modify homework, exams and essay topics each semester.
- Check desks and the surrounding area for unauthorized materials.
- Require students to sign tests and verify the signatures.
- Photocopy completed exams (or a sample of them) for comparison in re-grade requests and inform students of this practice.
- Do not post answers to an exam prior to its completion.
- Disallow programmable calculators or require battery removal and reinstallation prior to the start of the exam.
- Clear your web archives of solutions and answers to assignments periodically.
- Establish a restroom policy for exam periods, and inform your students of that policy.
- Use the plagiarism detection program subscribed to by the University.