A Comparison of University Efforts to Contain Academic Dishonesty

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The authors of this article have extensive and long-term experience as both college professors and management consultants. Over the past several years, they have collected information from the faculty of domestic and foreign colleges and universities on their attitudes toward academic dishonesty and what they do when infractions occur (Frost, Hamlin & Barczyk, 2007). This paper examines the approaches and policies several institutions use in an effort to minimize the problem of academic dishonesty. Often there is a lack of alignment between individual professors and their institutions of employment, both in terms of attitudes and enforcement of policy. This is particularly acute for non-tenured faculty, who often fear retaliation by students on course evaluations if they act as "policemen" who protect the university's policies on academic integrity. This has resulted in the creation of committees that enforce sanctions against students who are found guilty of various acts of academic dishonesty. In so doing, these committees relieve the individual instructor of the obligation to act as judge and jury. Generally, institutions create a policy that defines expected behavior, establishes a committee to enforce the policy, and formulates a communication program to explain to everyone exactly what is expected.

This paper is organized into three sections. The first describes why the problem of academic dishonesty is important. It examines the extent of the problem and describes approaches to control it. The second section presents the administrative mechanisms employed by ten U.S.-based universities to help manage student academic dishonesty. The third section provides some conclusions. Limitations of this research and implications for further study are discussed.

WHY THIS PROBLEM IS IMPORTANT

While the root cause of academic dishonesty is subject to much debate, anecdotal evidence suggests multiple factors. Many undergraduate students in colleges and universities either engage in dishonest behavior themselves; refuse to turn in fellow students who they see cheating; think it is permissible to cheat if the rewards are high enough; or have some other type of unhealthy or unrealistic attitude. These attitudes result in more dishonest behavior, which in the long run, hurts the cheater and honest students that do not engage in dishonest acts.

According to Hamlin and Powell (2008) the need has never been greater for a solution to the problem of academic dishonesty. Six points highlight the urgency of this issue. First, academic dishonesty occurs frequently in every discipline, as discussed in the next section. Second, there is no uniform method for dealing with the problem within the same department, much less between different universities. Thus, individual faculty members can be left to fend for themselves, and most instructors, regardless of tenure status, do not wish to increase their workload by becoming classroom enforcement officers. Third, non-tenured faculty members have even less incentive to deal with this problem, since student retaliation on end-of-semester evaluations can interfere with the instructor's goal to attain tenure. Fourth, discrepancies in either policy or implementation can result in legal problems. Fifth, honest students are disadvantaged when dishonest students are not charged and punished, especially if the instructor grades on a curve. Sixth, how the issue is handled is of paramount importance in getting a positive outcome from this very negative experience. Academic instructors must foster the perception for the benefit of faculty and students, that integrity policies and enforcement mechanisms are fair and consistently applied. Even if these points are addressed, dishonesty will remain a problem for colleges and universities. The scope of the issue is so significant that the authors strongly believe that it is their responsibility to at least make an effort to minimize it. …