When Does an Incident of Student Academic Misconduct, within a Professional Preparation Program, Pass from "Ignore," to "Reprimand," to "Expel"?

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In any academic setting, ignoring student academic misconduct sends the wrong message to the guilty students and any other student that knows about the misconduct. The reprimand that follows academic misconduct should be based on the severity of the misconduct and the policies and procedures of the university, college, or academic program involved.

Depending on the severity of the misconduct, education programs must decide whether the student in question is ready to be in charge of the education for others. Misconduct that shows a disregard for academic honesty could raise questions about a student's character and professionalism. Having policies written ahead of time to address these types of issues can be invaluable to an academic department.

Students can get into situations where they feel overwhelmed and can subsequently make a bad decision that can be harmful to their future. One bad decision does not always necessitate expulsion from an education program. On the other hand, students that have demonstrated a pattern of disregard for academic honesty should not be teaching in a K-12 educational setting, where they can influence the values of our youths.

Professors must provide the students in their education preparation programs with positive examples. They can do this by holding their future teachers to the same standards (if not higher standards) that they would expect them to hold their students to in their future classrooms.

--Daniel N. McMasters, Jr., associate professor, Martin Methodist College, Pulaski, TN.

Student academic misconduct at any level should be handled in a strict and uniform manner. Obviously, students in grade school and high school are young, inexperienced, and easily persuaded. Academic misconduct at such a young age could be, in part, due to lack of experience and understanding. However, students enrolled in professional preparation programs have absolutely no excuse for any kind of academic misconduct. I feel that all incidents of academic misconduct at this level of education should be taken very seriously and should never be ignored.

The "three strikes and you're out" rule, enforced by many educational institutions, is far too lenient for students in professional preparation programs. If a student is caught participating in any type of academic misconduct (i.e., cheating, plagiarism, using other students' work, etc.), he or she should be reprimanded immediately. The punishment should be up to the professor, whether it is a verbal warning, a zero for the assignment or test, or failure of the course. This incident of academic misconduct should be documented by the professor and put in the student's file. In addition, the student should be notified that any other incident of academic misconduct will result in expulsion from the university. If a second incident of academic misconduct is proven, the student should be expelled from the university. Students at this level of education are not children. They are fully aware of the rules and should be held responsible for their actions. For a student to be involved in more than one incident of academic misconduct is not a coincidence, it is a pattern. This is not the kind of person who should be working in any type of professional setting.

--Thelma Hearn, graduate student, Delta State University, Cleveland, MS.

Student rights and responsibilities begin when they enter an academic program. One of these responsibilities is for students to maintain academic honesty throughout their time at the educational institution. Academic misconduct occurs when a student knowingly chooses to cheat. This action should never be ignored or go unpunished.

If a student is caught violating guidelines for academic honesty, he or she should be given a written reprimand. The student may choose to sign this, admitting guilt, or go before a faculty review board hearing for further evaluation. …