What is academic misconduct? How should faculty and staff handle cases of academic misconduct?

The following sections addresses issues regarding plagiarism and cheating.

Academic misconduct technically refers to cheating and plagiarism.  The UW-Madison campus will also refer to this type of misconduct as academic dishonesty.  When students are found responsible for academic misconduct, the penalties or sanctions can range from a verbal warning to expulsion. The most common penalties assigned in resolving formal charges of academic misconduct on campus are grade reductions and an educational tutorial on academic integrity.  It is extremely important for instructors to be aware of academic misconduct and to be prepared to deal with it if it happens.  It is also very important that teaching assistants in departments be aware that they should immediately consult with their course supervisor(s) if they suspect academic misconduct.    

  • Arrange the required conference/meeting between the instructor and the student(s) suspected of misconduct.   Based on your department's policy or practices, this conference/meeting may be private or held in the presence of others (e.g., chair, department advisor).  The purpose of this meeting is for the instructor to explain to the student(s) the nature of the charge, the reasons for believing that academic misconduct may have occurred and the possible sanctions, and to hear any response that the student wishes to make.
  • Consider imposing a mild sanction (such as a private oral or written reprimand and/or an assignment to repeat the work for full credit) if you believe the misconduct to be unintentional.  This does not require filing a formal report with other university offices (e.g., Dean of Students Office).   If students comply and do not appeal, the matter will be considered resolved.
  • File a required formal report with the department and the Dean of Students Office if the instructor believes that the extent of misconduct warrants a more severe sanction.  This sanction can be anything from a written reprimand to be placed in the student's file and/or a reduced grade on the work or in the course, to probation, suspension, or expulsion.  When reporting misconduct to the Dean of Students Office, the instructor should use a Finding Letter to present the student with the sanctions.  This letter is then forwarded to the Dean of Students Office.  The letter can be found at Finding Letter Template.
Students have the right to appeal any level of sanction.  If a student requests a hearing to appeal a finding of academic misconduct or a sanction, the instructor will be asked to be a witness at the hearing.  However, very few students request a hearing.

The following suggestions may be helpful in preventing academic misconduct or at least diminishing the possibility of plagiarism and cheating on exams and papers:
  • It may be helpful to discuss the concept of plagiarism with students in a course that requires writing papers.  Please keep in mind that many young or new students may not have a clear idea of when and how to give references to the words or ideas of others.  The best prevention for plagiarism is open and detailed discussion with students, either individually or as a group, as to the policies and philosophies of the instructor.  Students should be absolutely clear as to the type of material they may or may not use as well as how such materials should be cited.  Some instructors have found requiring students to hand in a copy of their rough drafts as well as the final version of a paper to be helpful in controlling the potential for plagiarism.
  • It is also very important to make clear to students what the course rules are regarding collaboration on assignments.  There is a wide variation among faculty as to how much collaboration is permitted or encouraged, and this may be genuinely confusing to students.
UW-Madison rules and procedures are described in great detail by the Office of the Dean of Students in a website devoted to the topic of academic dishonesty. For more information about this topic, refer to Academic Integrity under the Dean of Students Office website.

Keywords:academic misconduct, plagiarism, cheating, academic dishonesty   Doc ID:21697
Owner:Tori R.Group:College of Letters & Science
Created:2011-12-12 17:38 CDTUpdated:2015-04-06 11:39 CDT
Sites:College of Letters & Science
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