by Andrea Gardner
Editor in Chief
The answer is on the tip of the tongue. You think for a moment. You think harder. You stare at the ceiling, begging for the answer to fall into your head. It is right there, but you just cannot find that right word. And there is your neighbor, writing each answer diligently, showing no signs of fatigue, blanking or writer’s block.
To peek or not to peek, that is the question.
Peeking for answers during the dreaded exam is just one form of academic dishonesty. Plagiarism, crib notes and the sharing of tests are a few others.
According to Dr. John Gingrich, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, some are more serious than others, but none are excusable.
Dr. Gingrich estimates that he sees approximately 12 students per year for academic dishonesty, though he knows that professors normally deal with issues of academic dishonesty more frequently.
He said that though he has no empirical evidence, his hunch is that academic dishonesty has grown through the ’80s and ’90s.
He said that though laziness is always one reason for academic dishonesty, there is “increased competition for jobs and increased competition regarding GPAs and graduate school.”
Dr. Gingrich said there are also students who treat academic dishonesty as a game, to see how far they can go without getting caught.
Dr. William Cook, vice president of Academic Affairs says the reason stems from an insecurity that students have in achieving what is demanded of them.
In regards to solving the problem, Dr. Gingrich brought up the issue of exposing students that are cheating. He said there have been students who have approached him with concerns of cheating in the class, especially when the teacher used a curve to determine grades.
He said there is “a balance between being a tattletale and just saying, ‘Well, if they can get away with it, it’s fine.'”
In regards to the seriousness of the different forms of academic dishonesty, Dr. Gingrich said the range goes from fraternity and sorority test banks to situations as bad as plagiarizing a senior thesis.
Above all, the professor almost always has the final say in regards to the consequence, though students can go to their department chair, or go further to present their side to Dr. Gingrich or to Dr. Cook.
Dr. Stephen Sayles, professor of history, says in his experience with academic dishonesty, action has varied from meeting with the student to giving a failing grade in the class.
To combat plagiarism, he requires that students turn in two copies of their term papers so that he can keep a copy on file.
Though he has not had to deal with a case of academic dishonesty in the last three years, he says he has found “suspicious similarities in topics on papers” in the past and has dipped into the term paper files to investigate. He says without proof, he does not confront the student.
Dr. Gingrich’s general response to academic dishonesty is something he said is “normal, typical things a dean would say,” calling it a self-defeating chance.
He said it’s “expending a lot of energy to beat the system, where hard work wouldn’t have been much harder.”
Dr. Cook said, “Ultimately, the reason you are taking the education in the first place is to acquire the knowledge, and when you need the knowledge, it is not going to be there.”
Academic dishonesty policy
In the 1997-1998 University of La Verne Catalog, the current policy for academic honesty lists “All tests, term papers, oral and written assignments, and recitations are to be the work of the student presenting the material.”
It addresses attribution, saying, “any use of wording, ideas, or finding of other persons, writers, or researchers requires the explicit citation of the source; use of the exact wording requires a ‘quotation’ format.”
The statement also documents that those deliberately giving their materials to a student to plagiarize is also acting against the policy.
According to the statement, faculty members with proof that academic dishonesty has taken place may take disciplinary action. If a professor does not have sufficient proof, he or she “may require additional and/or revised work from the student.”
Members of the Undergraduate Academic Policy committee (UGAP) have requested better documentation of the academic dishonesty policy.
According to Dr. Michael Frantz, a member of UGAP, Dr. Aghop Der-Karabetian assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences proposed the idea “in response to a perceived increase in academic dishonesty.”
Dr. Frantz does not believe there was any hard evidence that supported the increase, but that it was a perception from the faculty. For this reason, UGAP, which handles all policies related to the academic process created a new policy.
Dr. John Gingrich, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences described the new draft as “a more detailed policy” that explains more about the process of dealing with academic dishonesty, as well as serious issues and a tracking system for repeat offenders.
It specifically addresses the issue of forwarding academic dishonesty conflicts between professor and student to the vice president of academic affairs.
Dr. Frantz said this “keeps the faculty members from being in the middle of it.”
He also said that by tracking students that have broken the academic dishonesty policy, it will allow faculty to “get a better grip on it.”
The new policy is up for approval after the graduate committee approves it, which will then make the policy’s final approval occur at the Dec. 10 faculty assembly.
Getting caught with a hand in the cookie jar can get anything from a slap on the wrist to expulsion from the University depending on the offense and the action decided by the professor.
Dr. William Cook, vice president of academic affairs, said the professor in the class is the determiner of the appropriate action regarding academic dishonesty. Though Dr. Cook is at the top of the chain of command in regards to academic dishonesty, he only sees a couple of cases per year, because most situations are dealt with by the professor, or sometimes by the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. John Gingrich.
Dr. Gingrich said that professors often ask students to retake a test or rewrite a paper if they are caught being academically dishonest.
Sometimes, however, they are not so forgiving. Dr. Gingrich said other consequences for plagiarism, sharing tests or other forms of cheating include receiving a failing grade on the test or assignment, or if the assignment is a final paper or exam, the professor can fail the student for the entire class.
The worst-case scenario is expulsion from the University, which is the only academic dishonesty offense that is so stated on the student’s transcript.
If a student is to receive a fail in the class, however, Dr. Gingrich said the transcripts will not reflect the reason for the failing grade.