Most GW classrooms feature a black and gold plaque on the wall warning students that “The right answer comes from you.” The signs were put there to make students think twice about cheating, plagiarizing or turning in work that is not theirs.
Tim Terpstra, director of the Office of Academic Integrity, said that of the approximately 100 cases the office receives in a calendar year, roughly half involve plagiarism.
“It’s a temptation,” Terpstra said. “You use the Web and its resources and sometimes the temptation is too overwhelming.”
He said many cases are a product of “negligent plagiarism” – copying and pasting from a source and neglecting to cite it in a paper. He also noted the ability of students to download full papers from the Internet.
Many professors reported an increase in copying from the Internet. A history professor who wished to remain anonymous said Google searches are an effective resource for identifying plagiarism.
“Unfortunately, there are some students who copy papers verbatim and expect to get away with it,” he said. “Professors have to stay one step ahead of them.”
Freshman Dan Fellman said that his writing professor urged students to be vigilant against plagiarism.
“Citing is a big deal,” Fellman said. “I cite a lot more than I used to (to avoid) accidental plagiarism.”
The other prevalent form of cheating occurs in the classroom, when students are taking quizzes and exams. Terpstra said eight students from the same class were recently charged with academic misconduct, but he could not provide more details on the incident. He said students in the same classes cheat by sharing homework, collaborating on take-home exams, using cheat sheets or copying answers during exams and quizzes.
Junior Julie Maroff described a recent incident in which she hear dseveral of her classmates planning before class where they would sit so they could copy off each other’s exams.
She said cheating goes on at GW but that “students overlook it.”
“I’m not going to be the type of person who reports (other students for cheating),” she said.
A psychology professor who requested anonymity said he finds himself a”surveillant” to combat cheating during exam time.
“I also make sure I write my own tests and grade my own tests,” he said.
A graduate teaching assistant from the biology department explained other methods used to counteract cheating in class.
In addition to making copies of student’s answer sheets so they don’t change them and then contest their grade later, he said cell phones and pagers must be off while students are working.
“If a cell phone rings – or worse, if somebody answers it – the student will lose points or get a zero,” the TA said.
Despite technological advancements, Terpstra said there have been no reported cases at GW involving the use of phones or pagers to transmit answers. However, he said there have been some unorthodox cases of cheating.
“Another time, we had a case where a fellow was charged with having someone else take his final exam for him – his wife,” Terpstra said.
He said the number of cases involving academic dishonesty were on the rise a few years ago but have since flattened. He said the academic integrity code, which provides guidelines concerning cheating, is a success.
GW is part of the Center for Academic Integrity, which provides a uniform policy for handling cases in which students are accused of cheating. This is the sixth year GW’s office of academic integrity has been in existence.
“I’m proud that GW is a member of the Center for Academic Integrity,” Terpstra said. “If you don’t have such a vehicle, cheating inevitably increases.”
Currently, GW students who have allegedly cheated appear in a hearing before the academic integrity counsel, a group of faculty and students that reviews instances of academic misconduct.
Students are allowed to call witnesses and have an adviser.
Sanctions for cheating depend on the severity of the case and can range from assignment failure or course failure to suspension or expulsion from the University for repeat offenders and in extreme cases of misconduct.
-Aaron Huertas contributed to this report.