The Academic Misconduct Policy at the University of Saskatchewan recognizes that as instructors, we often are in a great position to judge the severity of an act of dishonesty and to situate that act in the context of our course. The informal procedures available through the U of S academic misconduct policy set clear parameters—to apply a grade penalty on the assignment or test that is of concern, it must be dealt with using the “informal procedures”. Whereas, the formal procedures may be invoked when the grade penalty you see as deserved extends beyond the assignment or test to the overall grade for the course.
However, each of us likely has a different threshold for when a concern for academic dishonesty warrants a penalty and what the severity should be. Depending on the situation, some of us will be more apt to ask a student found to have plagiarized to, after a stern warning, submit a re-write addressing the errors or omissions for re-grading. And, some of us will be instead inclined to advance the matter to the formal procedures and participate in a hearing, seeing the plagiarism as a far more serious a matter.
So, why does this variation matter?
Students come to know that different instructors handle the same kinds of academic dishonesty differently. When students see their teachers as less diligent or less vigilant about such matters, the problematic short cut (the majority of academic dishonesty takes this form) may seem a lower risk than in another class. In this situation, students committed to academic integrity can lose faith and question whether the assessment playing field is that even, after all. That is, are the rules really the rules? And, to use this year’s Academic Integrity Awareness Week catch phrase without its intended twist, previously honest students may wonder to themselves “Why not Cheat?”
What can be done?
Today, my colleague from the ULC, Elana Geller and I, will facilitate a discussion at the College of Kinesiology at their request about developing a common approach to enacting the academic misconduct policy, especially when to use the informal procedures. We will talk about the policy as it exists, acknowledge the complexities of discovering and confirming academic dishonesty, and assist in identifying common principles the faculty and instructors in the College want to use going forward.
If other academic units are interested in our assistance facilitating something similar, feel free to contact us (or check in with your friends in Kinesiology to see how it turned out).