Academic Dishonesty (It Happens - What Do We Really Do?)

08/22/2018 13:50

It’s always the first and ONLY time, except when you find out it wasn’t. And how does one find that out? Read on.

Dealing with dishonest student behavior is inconvenient and often confounding.  Responses to it may vary from automatic course failures, to the broad category called “other.” The tenor of my recent discussions, supplemented with some research, have led to the following notes I’m sharing in the hope it helps newer faculty members and opens wider discussion. I welcome your thoughts and responses, which will surely help us all.

-        First, here’s a good article: Dan Ariely on How and Why We Cheat. One of my favorite parts is point #6, where Ariely claims those from the pharmaceutical industry (which includes yours truly) are masters of the game. I don’t know about that, but a little context is humbling. As he says, “we all cheat.” And yeah, I suspect some of the social psychologists who trained us might have been private investigators on the side. All the better to get inside those cheating minds. And...

-        There’s a lot of cheating going on in classrooms, thanks to the variety of ways it’s now possible, including, but not limited to, wearable smart phones and other sneaky tech. There are popular cheating how-to YouTube videos, and numerous sites where some of our own exams may be posted with answers. Of course, the answers may not be correct. Those old enough to recall the old Mission Impossible series (I always wanted to be the Barbara Bain character) will enjoy this little  review of subversive tech tools.

-        Many sources, including this one, show college student acceptance of cheating as a reality, particularly as a strategy to be successful, veers into the 80% range. In roundtable discussions in my own class, “lying as a supposed strategy to do bigger and better things” was cited by students as prevalent in our culture.  

-        Turn it In is not helpful when students contract with sources willing to develop original papers for them.

-        The emergence of writing cottage industries in college towns is a problem. In one situation a couple of years ago, I followed a trail based on basic software knowledge followed by checks of publicly available records, resources and social sites. Professional writers are in the business of selling their words, and may not care who’s buying, or for what reason. 

-        Candid students may be very specific about cheating they observe or suspect. Hearsay reports, cautiously noted, can provide good information. They at least help us to be more alert, and add to the “case files.”

-        Some students practice one another’s printing and signatures to claim attendance for absent friends. While easy to regulate in smaller classes, it becomes more difficult in crowded classrooms, especially if pairs or more of students sign up for more than one of your classes.

-        Adjudicating specific cases may be a responsibility of the reporting faculty if they prefer it, according to SJA forms I found on the University’s website on academic integrity. Perhaps one of our legal colleagues can provide further clarity; I have yet to go through all the advice on this site myself.  Submitting a form may require a little faculty time and consideration, but each offers the educator more leeway than I would have thought, had I not had a look at them. Some cheating occurences in certain situations could lend themselves to coaching, and maybe provide opportunities for real-world lessons. Any of these forms may help in terms of  the dreaded “administrative escalation of grievances.” Formal reporting also enables patterns of behavior to be detected. Educators say they are concerned about cheating, which they know happens, but reporting numbers don't add up.  If this local news report televised in November 2017 is  truly "Action News we can count on," there were twenty-three reports of cheating for the entire Chico State campus last year. This is nowhere near the anecdotal frequency with which cheating is said to occur. Where is the documentation? The forms are simple, enabling us to approach specific situations with control over the outcome. Handing off the problem to anyone else, or a committee, isn't automatic unless there's a clear reason. If a student fails as a result of a course policy about which they've been informed, a one-page filed document is still helpful in the event of future occurences. Before failing a student, say, an "A" student weeks prior to graduating, such a file (or lack of one)  could be helpful in determining just consequences.

-        Many students belong to Greek organizations that uphold academic honesty and performance standards. Leaders within those groups can provide helpful information to you, and you to them. There’s nothing like peer-to-peer education and reinforcement of standards to assist you as an educator.

I plan on having a far more detailed top-of-the-semester review of academic honesty with my students when Fall begins.

 P.S. To those of you at the COB who previously filed reports under University guidelines, Thank you. You never know how helpful these are, until you need them. 

 Conversation With Kristin Minetti, Department of Finance and Marketing



LCB: Kristin, your father passed away suddenly in March, followed just days later with another profound loss. A recently graduated former student, with whom you and many students were close, died suddenly due to unforeseen medical problems. This has been such a hard semester. Yet you’ve stood by your students to follow through on all that matters most to them, even as you struggled through deeply personal losses.

KM: It’s been a hard time, but students have been so supportive. I received more than 70 sympathy cards from my students, flowers…and I found that keeping busy is helpful. I need to be here.

LCB: What are you proudest of, in terms of work this semester?

KM: Well, I had the privilege of coaching four students for the Western State Collegiate Sales Competition, and all were Quarter Finalists! Brittany Fortune, Sheryl Manies, and Tim Heinze hosted an incredible event, and the students worked hard for the honor. This led to more travels, more successes. Our students are terrific.

LCB: You’ve been involved with students a long time and with great results. How did you get interested in student organizations?

KM: As a Chico State student in 2007, I was President of the American Marketing Association and we placed 6th in the nation, the highest the club has ever placed. I also was on the board of the AMA for 3 years, and I use the knowledge I gained then to help students now.

LCB: As their advisor since 2016, you helped the AMA grow from 19 to more than 90 members, and I know from past emails that you’re no stranger to the world of student accomplishment.

KM: We’ve been to New Orleans twice and placed nationally both times! Presence, strong chapter plans, annual reports, and case studies help us gain national attention. We need enthusiasm and collaboration to achieve the results we’ve been enjoying.  Many other faculty and program assistants help us make it happen.

LCB: Tell me about your history with Delta Sigma Pi.

KM: As a student in 2008, I was President of the Chapter and I use that knowledge to help the club now. I’m currently District Director for the Business Fraternity, meaning that I work with our central office to ensure our club is up-to-date with policies and procedures. I’ve attended LEAD training schools in Sacramento and San Diego, and was able to help bring over 15 members to these events.

LCB: That must have been fun for them, to see what kinds of leadership positions are available in such a strong fraternity, and how those leaders operate. In the past couple of years, several of your student nominees for awards at the College placed as winners…a great starting point for leaders of the future.

KM: As a Rawlins Award winner in 2008, I know what that honor means. I try to keep an eye out always for deserving students, so I’m ready when the call for nominations comes in the mail box.

LCB: And now you're getting ready to teach in overseas this summer? That sounds exciting.

KM: Yes, recently I was selected to teach a MKTG 400 level course in Verona, Italy this July. I studied abroad in 2006 in Madrid, Spain, and am going to use that experience to be as effective as possible as a teacher abroad. Good news: the course was filled before the deadline to maximum student capacity!

LCB: Kristin, do you have any helpful insight on teaching today’s students, versus when you were in their shoes?

KM: That’s a tough one. The biggest difference, I feel, is technology. When I was a student, smartphones and iPads had only recently come out. Also, Blackboard wasn’t used as efficiently. I feel that now, more than ever, we are competing for students’ attention against a vast number of other stimuli. We have to keep the courses engaging and interactive to keep their attention. I use videos, case studies, Powerpoints, group projects, guest speakers, field trips and in-class activities to try to keep them interested, and not be too boring or redundant.


Best of luck to Kristin and her past, present, and future students. If there were an Award for Performance and Selfless Achievement in the Face of Adverse Circumstances, Kristin would definitely be on my short list of nominees for the Spring 2018 semester.