Academic Senate Faculty Toolkit

Frequently Asked Questions

Topics

Cheating/Plagiarism

FERPA

Disruptive Students

Cheating/Plagiarism

 

Q. What can I do to promote a classroom of integrity? Do you have any tips?

A. Great question!  There are many things you can do as the professor to mitigate cheating and promote integrity.

  • Clarify course expectations for students and for all graded components of your course on the syllabus and assignment prompts. Specifically identify individual assignments versus group/team assignments.
  • Address incidences of potential dishonesty EVERY time with EVERY student.
  • Provide as much space as possible between students.
  • Create new exams each semester. If you do not wish to create new exams, do not allow students to keep old exams.
  • Consider giving exams which are application or essay based where copying is more difficult.
  • If giving an objective exam, make different versions of the exam or shuffle the questions and/or response choices.
  • Check ID’s when receiving completed exams.
  • Monitor testing conditions during an exam through observations while walking the room perimeter.

Q. I have discovered assignments where the submissions of several students are the same. I’m uncertain whether there is collusion or cheating, but there’s too much similarity to be independent work. I’d like to discuss my thoughts and findings with someone with some experience and who may have a recommendation as to how best to proceed. Is there someone I can speak with about this?

A. Located within the Dean of Students’ office suite, the Judicial Affairs Officers are available for consultation with these matters.  While appointments are preferred, drop-ins are also welcome. The Dean of Students’ office suite is located in 4.400 of the Student Services Building (SSB 4.400). Normal office hours are 8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. The telephone number is 972-883-6391.

Q. I get exasperated when I receive assignments that are copied from another student or are not the students’ original work. In the syllabus and assignment instructions I state they are to reference outside sources and that every assignment is to be an independent task. I say this repeatedly during class session, I post it on eLearning and even have them submit papers for evaluation by Turnitin.com. What else can I do that might help to get the message across?

A. It appears the assignment expectations have been communicated to your students in multiple ways.  There are several excellent resources available to assist your students with their writing and math skills.  Sometimes having someone that the students do not see everyday prompts them to ‘ramp-up’ their classroom listening skills.  If you would like for a representative of Judicial Affairs to address your students, we’re happy to oblige. Customarily, we tailor our comments to address the assignments and advisories reflected in your course syllabus. Give us a call at 972-883-6391 or send an email to judicialaffairs@utdallas.edu. Let’s see if, together, we can help your students to be successful.

We’d like to see them before they get to see us!

Q. I require my students to use a specified writing style (MLA) in their papers, including parenthetical citations and a works cited page.  This is clearly stated in my course syllabus. I have received a paper that does not use any style that I can identify.  Is this an example of academic dishonesty?

A. This is not a simple question but is frequently asked!  In reviewing the submission, if the student has not used any outside resources then perhaps no references or citations are necessary regardless of the required use of a writing manual.  However, if there appears to be need for sources to be identified and the sources are not correctly referenced pursuant to the required style, then there are a couple of basic alternatives to consider: the student has been careless in adhering to assignment instructions which probably warrants a point reduction for failing to follow instructions; or, the unreferenced passages may not be original work of the student thus necessitating an academic dishonesty referral to Judicial Affairs alleging plagiarism.  The determination as to which is appropriate remains the responsibility of the faculty. 

Q.  I’m not too sure the paper submitted is original work by Student Y.  The vocabulary, sentence structure and expressed ideas are more sophisticated than that used in class discussion.  The references listed are fairly old for this topic.  I’ve heard there is a way to check student papers for possible plagiarism.  Is this a possibility?

A.  If you have received a paper or assignment that doesn’t appear to be original work, consider using Turnitin as a tool to assist in the identification of content sources.  Turnitin is an effective tool for helping to identify sources of content included in essays.  Some professors require each student to submit assignments directly to Turnitin.  In turn, the professor picks up the submitted paper (and the originality report) from Turnitin.  Want more information about Turnitin or want to create an account for your classes?  Send an email requesting Turnitin access to judicialaffairs@utdallas.edu.

Q. I think a student cheated in my class.  Can I kick him/her out of class or refuse to accept his/her assignments? Why?

A. Until a determination is made by the Judicial Affairs Office, students suspected of academic dishonesty must be permitted to: attend all classes; complete all assignments and complete exams (although unauthorized aids should be removed).  Why? Failure to afford a student his or her due process rights as part of a disciplinary process can result in a number of legal repercussions, including attachment of personal liability to the offending instructor.  The UTD Judicial Affairs’ Office is responsible for affording the student his or her due process opportunity by investigating the alleged infraction.

Q. I want to support an environment of integrity in my classroom and the university as a whole. But, I don’t have a lot of time.  Is the referral process time consuming?

A. To make an initial referral, the Judicial Affairs Officers request a few pieces of information from you. This includes the course syllabus, referral information and any relevant evidence to the case.  Depending on the complexity of the evidence, this process could be more time consuming for some than others.  It is also recommended, but not required, that you meet with or inform the student of your intent to make a referral.

If the student disagrees with the finding of responsibility by Judicial Affairs and requests a hearing, there is an additional time commitment.  The referring faculty member is required to be present at the hearing in order to provide relevant testimony.  A hearing may last up to 4 hours and is held on campus in the Dean of Students office.  Advance notice of the hearing is provided. 

Q. I believe I have pretty good evidence of academic dishonesty by a student in my class. I have the referral form completed, a copy of my syllabus, the student paper and the supporting evidence ready to bring to Judicial Affairs. Is there anything else that I need to do?

A. Since you have a reason to suspect academic dishonesty has occurred, you have a couple of options available.

            1) You may confer with the student to discuss the allegation and to hear what the student has to say on his/her behalf. The student may have relevant information related to the matter. After meeting with the student, if you determine that the allegation is not supported by the evidence, you may choose not to refer the allegation to Judicial Affairs.  However, after meeting with the student, you may refer the allegation along with the recommended grade to be assessed or remedy to be applied if the student is found responsible for academic dishonesty. Caution: You must not impose any independent sanctions upon the student in lieu of a referral to Judicial Affairs.

            2) If you choose not to meet with the student, forward the appropriate documentation to Judicial Affairs and make a sincere attempt to inform the student of the allegation and that the matter has been referred to Judicial Affairs.

Q. On the Academic Dishonesty Referral Form, I see that I am provided with an opportunity to make a recommendation if a sanction is warranted.  I’m not too familiar with the University standards in terms of sanction appropriateness. Would you provide some insight, please?

A. You are welcome to contact the Dean of Students a Judicial Affairs representative regarding sanction recommendations (972-883-6391). It is highly recommended that the course syllabus include a statement (giving notice to students) regarding a range of sanctions that may be recommended for acts of academic dishonesty.   In assessing sanctions, we look to be as consistent as possible with sanctions assessed for comparable acts of academic dishonesty across the University. Effort is made to treat students among and between various disciplines as equitably as possible.

Q. In the course syllabus, I clearly state that I will fail a student I think has cheated.  Why can’t I do what I say I will do?

A. An academic judgment relating to whether a student has or has not properly completed a quality academic exercise as assigned is the responsibility of the faculty.  Investigating allegations of academic dishonesty and, if warranted, assessing a sanction falls under the authority of Judicial Affairs articulated in the UTD Handbook of Operating Procedures (HOP).  Faculty involved in the disciplinary process are expected to abide by these standards.

Q. During a conversation at lunch the other day, a fellow professor told me about Student X cheating on a test in her course.  I’m going to watch Student X during my next exam and review his/her work with a very critical eye.  Can I find out about other students in my courses that have cheated or are thought to have cheated?

A. All information concerning prior academic dishonesty allegations and dispositions is strictly confidential and disclosed only to the faculty member submitting the referral.  It is a violation of the student’s FERPA rights when these matters are discussed with anyone without the student’s express written permission.  Casual conversation at the lunch table could result in liability.  Additionally, predisposition of anticipated conduct of Student X accompanied by heightened scrutiny of academic exercises submitted by Student X could prompt claims of discrimination or the filing of a grade grievance.

Q. Two days ago I referred a student whom I suspected of cheating on an exam. The student was back in class today. Do I have to allow the student to remain in class?

A. Presuming the students’ presence does not interfere with your ability to teach the class or the ability of other class members to learn, the student may remain in class. Pending disciplinary action, the student remains responsible for all academic exercises and syllabus requirements.

Q. Earlier in the semester I counseled with a student I suspected of plagiarizing in an assignment.  I now find the student has submitted another assignment with substantial portions copied from an outside source without any referencing.  Why doesn’t this student get a more severe sanction since this is the second time they’ve submitted plagiarized work in my course?

A. A second finding of academic dishonesty generally does receive a more severe sanction.  In compliance with UT System model rules as well as local policies and regulations, academic dishonesty allegations are investigated and adjudicated through the Judicial Affairs Office.  Academic dishonesty matters addressed and disposed of that are resolved contrary to established protocols may not be considered as prior episodes of conduct violations.  Faculty are encouraged to refer suspected acts of academic dishonesty for proper investigation to the Judicial Affairs Office.

Q. I sent a referral for academic dishonesty to Judicial Affairs last week. I’ve received an email from the student asking to meet with me.  I’ve not heard from Judicial Affairs that the matter has been completed.  What are my options regarding meeting with the student?

A. Ultimately, the decision belongs to you. There is no policy or rule that requires you to meet with a student regarding an academic dishonesty matter, particularly one that is currently under investigation. That being said, there is also no prohibition about speaking with a student. Frequently students and faculty develop a rapport and even mentoring postures which may be strengthened by a conversation.  If you elect to meet with the student, you may want to place parameters on the topic since the student concern may relate to a future assignment or the potential for success in the course if found responsible for academic dishonesty. 

There are times during the investigation, when the student will ask if they can speak with the course instructor.  We tell them that they may ask to meet with the instructor; however, the instructor may choose not to meet, especially if the topic relates to the matter referred.  We also inform the student that if they have hopes that the allegation will be withdrawn once they speak with the instructor, that this is not the case.  Once the referral is presented to Judicial Affairs, the matter will be investigated with a determination of responsibility or no responsibility for academic dishonesty.

Q. Both my test proctor and I saw two students talking during an exam.  Much to my dismay, they did not curtail their talking despite my staring intently at them during the exam.  How can I best address this situation in the future?

A. Remember that you are in control of the environment.  Discretely ask the students to move, separating them from one another. Talking and noise making are not only distracting to other students, but may represent a sharing of information applicable to exam contents.  Empowering your teaching assistant or exam proctor to actively monitor by walking around the testing environment may prove beneficial. Recently an instructor used her cell phone during a test to photograph two students with heads together, pointing and comparing papers. The photo was an excellent tool to have available when the students denied the alleged conduct.

Q. What do I do if a student is found to have unauthorized material during an exam?

A. If the cheating involved the use of unauthorized material (cheat-sheet, cell phone, notes written on desktop or bluebook, etc.) the item is removed and the student permitted to continue the exam. An academic dishonesty referral form accompanied by the exam and supporting materials is to be sent to Judicial Affairs.

Q. I sometimes give my students take-home exams. In the exam instructions, I tell them to use only their class notes and the textbook. I also tell them to do their own work.  It seems that I repeatedly find duplicate responses to exam questions.  Do you have any suggestions on how to curtail this?

A. Left to their own devices, despite advisories to the contrary, students will sometimes work together to craft exam responses, email answers to one another and utilize resources beyond those that may be permitted. If you object to a ‘copy and paste’ approach to exam responses, it may be that you include a reference/citation requirement as part of the exam instructions. Please be as explicit as possible with your syllabus, instructions and expectations on your assignments and exams.

An alternative for exam administration could include utilizing the services of the UTD Testing Center.  The Testing Center enforces strict environmental and material accessibility policies and procedures appropriate for a testing facility.

Q. I’ve been informed by the Testing Center/Office of Student AccessAbility that they suspect one of my students of cheating during the exam. What do I do now?

A. Both the Testing Center (TC) and Office for Student AccessAbility (OSA) administer exams to students. Each has its policies and procedures for students to follow and each is keenly aware of academic dishonesty issues. Just as in your classroom, if the student has something unauthorized (cheat-sheet, cell phone, etc.) the offending material is removed and the student permitted to continue the exam.  An academic dishonesty referral, along with any supporting documentation is sent by TC/OSA to Judicial Affairs for investigation. If in hardcopy, the original exam is provided as well. The TC/OSA initially notifies the course instructor of the referral; Judicial Affairs communicates with the professor as the investigation progresses.

Once the matter has been resolved by Judicial Affairs, the course instructor is notified of the disposition so the correct exam grade can be recorded for the student.  In the event the student elects to proceed with a hearing, both the professor and the TC/OSA proctor will participate as witnesses.

Q. I recommended a sanction of expulsion for an allegation of academic dishonesty. Why is this student still in my class and why didn’t they expel him from the university?

A. In assessing sanctions, Judicial Affairs will review the student’s prior disciplinary record, consider the sanction recommended by the faculty member, and assess a sanction that is appropriate to the circumstances yet consistent with sanctions for similar acts of academic dishonesty.

Q. I sent an Academic Dishonesty Referral with a recommended sanction for the student to be removed from the academic program.  Judicial Affairs assessed a sanction that did not include removing the student from the program.  Why not?

A. In assessing sanctions for academic dishonesty, Judicial Affairs is not authorized to remove students from individual academic programs.  The determination that a student no longer meets prescribed program standards or qualities is an academic decision to be made by the program administrators.

Q. Recently, I sent a referral for suspected academic dishonesty to Judicial Affairs. Now, the assignment has been returned with an explanation that the student has been found “not responsible” for academic dishonesty. I’ve been instructed to evaluate the paper on the same basis as all papers submitted for this assignment. I’m not clear on why they sent this back to me.

A. To begin, a professor should not be “surprised” when an assignment is returned with a finding of “Not responsible.” The outcome should have been previously shared by Judicial Affairs.  However, to address the question, several things may have occurred during the investigation of the matter referred. For example, if two students were referred for submitting duplicate lab reports, it may be that one of the two accepted full responsibility for copying the report of the other student. In that event, the ‘not-responsible’ student would need to have a grade for his/her lab report.

On occasion, the support for an allegation of academic dishonesty can be questionable.  Recently, three students sitting next to one another during a math exam were referred for cheating because they each made the same errors on their calculations.  Students were permitted to prepare and use a “help card” during the exam. The three students worked together to prepare the card with each having a copy of the same card during the test.  The investigation revealed that the common exam response errors were not due to cheating during the exam, but to incorrect content on the duplicated help card.  Asking students to submit the help card along with the exam proved very beneficial in this instance.

Q. It’s been a busy semester. Final course grades are due to the Registrar on Friday.  I submitted three referrals on Wednesday.  When can I expect to get a resolution to my academic dishonesty referrals I just submitted?

A. As a general rule of thumb it is best to send your referrals as soon as possible.  This helps our office resolve them in a timely manner and also allows us to address the matter with the student while it is still fresh.  We always strive to resolve academic dishonesty referrals as soon as possible; however, the process can take several days or even longer in some cases.  During peak periods (i.e. midterms and finals), the resolution may take longer.  If the case is not resolved by the time grades are due, you should submit ‘NR’ as the course grade.  The NR will serve as a placeholder until the case has been resolved.

Q. If all my referrals have not been resolved by the time grades are due, should I just record a grade of ‘I?’

A. No, the letter “I” (for incomplete) is restricted for students who were unable to complete the course due to extenuating circumstances.  An “NR” (for not recorded) is a grade option specifically reserved for referrals to Judicial Affairs.  The NR will serve as a placeholder for the grade as long as needed until the matter is resolved. 

 

Updated: August 19, 2013