Professors ignore honesty policy

By Jana Fagotti
October 10, 2002

Professors are choosing to handle violations of academic honesty cases under their own digression, despite the student handbook’s requirement to fill out the appropriate paperwork. This leaves two students who are guilty of the same dishonest action to receive two different penalties, and has been the cause of much discussion among administration, faculty and students.

On Tuesday, Sept. 17, the Academic Council discussed whether there should be standardized penalties for academic honesty violations. The Student Academic Council was asked to discuss the issue and report back to the Academic Council with their opinions.

Dr. Catherine O’Connell, dean for academic affairs defines academic dishonesty as, “Any knowing use of someone else’s words or ideas.” The campus has had its share of dishonesty in the past and is currently dealing with certain cases.

The student handbook states that, “In the event of a suspected violation of the College’s Academic Honesty Policy, the instructor will notify the student verbally of a suspected act of academic dishonesty, specifying the act and reasons for the charge. The instructor will also tell the student what penalty is intended for the student’s action.” Such penalties include failure of the test or failure of the course with a possible recommendation for suspension or expulsion.

The professor is next required by the handbook to, “complete the Academic Honesty Violation Form,” and submit a copy to the Academic Affairs office and to the student involved. At this point the student “has seven academic days to submit an appeal to the vice president of academic affairs.” The jury of this hearing consists of three faculty members, three members of the SAC, as well as a jury of peers.

The problem becomes complicated when professors take it upon themselves to handle academic honesty violations without filling out the required paperwork that goes along with the penalty. Most professors assess their own penalties. This leaves the incident to the professor’s discretion, in which two students, who perform the same dishonest action, can be penalized differently.

Dr. Charles McCormick, assistant professor of English and communications, remembers handling only two cases of academic dishonesty. “It’s been a very rare occurrence,” McCormick said. He chose to handle those cases internally, although admits to debating whether to fill out the paperwork.

One of these students denied the incident at first, but within five minutes after having left the meeting with McCormick, admitted to the dishonesty and a failing grade was given. Another student of McCormick’s, who wishes to remain anonymous, admitted to having cheated within his English class last fall and, after apologizing, the student was given a zero for the quiz.

“I’m not interested in the policy; I’m interested in the student,” McCormick said. “I live by the philosophy ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’ I have no intentions of being fooled twice.”

O’Connell said, “Faculty are required to fill out the form in any case.” She realizes that not all faculty members take that second step and fill the form. Instead they choose to handle the situation in their own manner. O’Connell, who was previously a professor of English for 10 years, said the only way she would not turn a student in is “if I thought a student didn’t know the rules.” O’Connell explained that she would consider that a misunderstanding as opposed to cheating.

In considering a student’s point of view on the subject, senior Brandon Lawler admits to being scared that his work will be mistaken as plagiarism in his senior thesis. “It determines whether I graduate or not,” Lawler said. O’Connell urges students who feel that their work may be mistaken to “talk to their professors about it.” She recommends that students, “ask their professor if they’re confused. You can’t go wrong asking for guidance,” O’Connell said.

McCormick feels that a large reason for cheating and plagiarizing is because most students feel that their work is not good enough. “Many students do their papers last minute, and in order to make the deadline, feel that this is their only alternative,” McCormick said. “It’s not.”

O’Connell strongly agrees that this is a large reason behind the problem. O’Connell also said, “Intellectual property is property. To take another’s words or ideas is stealing. Students don’t see it that way. Faculty do.”

Although, one’s failure to comply with the academic honesty policy does not go on their permanent record, the college keeps a record. “In the past, no one has been expelled for cheating. The problem will be stopped when students take it seriously,” O’Connell said. “That’s why we’re asking the SAC to work on honesty. Students should be enforcing and implementing the policy.”

Jamie Jaskiewicz, senior and chairperson for SAC, said that she is “not sure” about how she feels about the policy. “Students wait until the last minute to hand papers in,” Jaskiewicz said. “Cheating should be the same throughout. Every professor should take the same route. Though most professors will hand out zeros to cheaters, there should be a uniform rule.”

Faculty advisor of SAC and professor of education, Dr. Harold Wingerd feels very strongly about the inclusion of the student in reinforcing this policy. “Students need to have ownership in formulating, promoting, developing, adjudicating and implementing this policy,” Wingerd said. He also feels that the faculty needs to come to a “commonality of what it is.”

In his own classes he requires an honesty statement to be handwritten at the bottom of every paper handed in that reads “I have received no help nor given help to others in completing this assignment.”

Laura Cover, a junior and elementary education major, said of the required statement, “It’s a great idea and it helps students become more serious and focused about their own work.”

Wingerd also said, “This is not a Cabrini problem. It’s a nationwide problem.” He said that he would like to think that Cabrini is less prone to academic dishonesty because of “what we stand for.”

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Jana Fagotti

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